Drama Dragon’s class­room vis­its an emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence

Ele­men­tary school stu­dents get sup­port for hav­ing feel­ings.

The Palm Beach Post - Neighborhood Post - Western Palm Beach County - - Front Page - By Faran Fa­gen Spe­cial to The Palm Beach Post

A class­room of small child re n hugs a t e a l d r a go n whose horns reach al­most to the ceil­ing.

The chil­dren ex­press dual emo­tions — they’re happy that Drama Dragon vis­ited with its book about emo­tions, but they’re sad that the fanged crea­ture is leav­ing.

Whether happy, sad or an­gry, Drama Dragon aims to light a fire of knowl­edge in chil­dren by il­lus­trat­ing emo­tions are valid and worth work­ing through.

“In the­ater classes, we talk about emo­tions all the time, and when chil­dren are given the op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss them, it makes deal­ing with them eas­ier and more man­age­able,” said Julie Rowe, di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre. “Hav­ing a mas­cot and book that helps us put words to our feel­ings helps us all have ob­jec­tive di­a­logue about feel­ings and what to do with them.”

Dr a ma Dr a go n i s b e s t suited for stu­dents in kin­der­garten through sec­ond grade, but the scaly ser­pent doesn’t just visit ele­men­tary schools. The Maltz the­ater project also vis­its preschools, li­braries and com­mu­nity events in Palm Beach and Martin coun­ties.

When Drama Dragon vis­its, it’s ac­com­pa­nied by a teach­ing artist called Dragon Fly. Drama Dragon and Dragon Fly visit a class, talk about who the cos­tumed crea­ture is, then Dragon Fly reads the dragon’s book aloud to the chil­dren.

Af­ter hear­ing the book, the chil­dren are led through dis- Drama Dragon vis­its with stu­dents at Jupiter Ele­men­tary School this past fall. More than 1,750 peo­ple have been in­tro­duced to Drama Dragon in schools, li­braries and com­mu­nity events since the book and mas­cot launched in late Oc­to­ber. cus­sion points on the book’s mes­sage about ex­press­ing emo­tions. At the end of the class­room visit, each child re­ceives a copy of the book to take home and share with fam­ily and friends. Drama Dragon and Dragon Fly have gone into bilin­gual class­rooms and con­ducted the ac­tiv­ity in English and Span­ish.

“It’s also very mov­ing to see and hear chil­dren have a pos­i­tive, ob­jec­tive di­a­logue about pro­cess­ing emo­tions, both good and bad,” Rowe said. “This op­por­tu­nity to self-re­flect in a pos­i­tive set­ting is healthy for ev­ery­one.”

Funded by the Maltz Jupiter Theatre en­dow­ment cre­ated by Mil­ton and Ta­mar Maltz, Drama Dragon is a long­stand­ing dream of the the­ater’s pro­duc­ing artis­tic di­rec­tor and chief ex­ec­u­tive, An­drew Kato.

The mas­cot is the cre­ation of a dy­namic team of South Florida artists who col­lab­o­rated to make Kato’s vi­sion a reality. Renowned au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor Ja­neen Ma­son, of the na­tional award-winn i n g Oc e a n C o mmoti o n se­ries, spent months sketch­ing out Drama Dragon’s like­ness, fol­lowed by a 32-page, full-color sto­ry­book. Us­ing a mixed-me­dia tech­nique, Ma­son, of Stu­art, used acrylic gouache and col­ored pen­cils to achieve Drama Dragon’s per­fect “look.”

Kato and Ma­son en­listed writer and per­former Ri­ley Roam (co-owner of the chil­dren’s the­ater com­pany, Page Turner Ad­ven­tures, and Sto­ry­ol­ogy Stu­dios) to write the ac­com­pa­ny­ing story about Drama Dragon’s quan­daries. The re­sult was a col­or­ful chil­dren’s book dis­trib­uted free to lo­cal schools, with fu­ture plans for some tour­ing min­imu­si­cals and se­quels to the book.

“There are many ex­cit­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties for Drama Dragon in the fu­ture,” Kato said.

A mas­cot com­pany in Canada spent last sum­mer build­ing a cos­tumed char­ac­ter to match Ma­son’s il­lus­tra­tions. A script of move­ments was pre­pared for Drama Dragon by Rowe, and the pro­gram launched last fall.

Roam’s writ­ing flew off the pages.

“I used fun, juicy words like ‘yikes’, ‘eek,’ ‘wowee’ and ‘gasp,’” said Roam, of Lake Worth. “I also tried to use evoca­tive lan­guage to de­scribe Drama Dragon’s e moti o ns . Fo r exa mple, sometimes, those feel­ings are fizzy and scrump­tious. Sometimes they’re tingly and sur­pris­ing. And sometimes they’re sticky and heavy.”

Roam re­al­ized from the p ro j e c t ’s i n c e p t i o n h ow im­por­tant Drama Dragon’s mes­sage would be to young chil­dren.

“I was thrilled to bring my per­spec­tive to the project,” Roam said. “Even though the char­ac­ter is called Drama Dragon, we don’t ac­tu­ally see him per­form­ing on­stage. The en­tire world is its stage. Drama Dragon is a very dra­matic char­ac­ter who ex­pe­ri­ences big emo­tions that can sometimes be over­whelm­ing. We wanted all kids to be able to re­late to Drama Dragon and un­der­stand that big feel­ings are OK.”

The pro­duc­tion team made sure kids could con­nect to the gen­tle scaly mon­ster.

“Sometimes Drama Dragon will wear a tuxedo; other times a swim­suit or a dress,” Rowe said. “The goal is to pro­vide a fun-lov­ing role model that ev­ery­one can iden­tify with. We all have feel­ings, and it’s OK to ex­press our emo­tions. It’s what we do with them that counts.”

For more in­for­ma­tion, call 561-743-6124 or visit jupiterthe­atre.org/com­mu­nity-out­reach.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHO­TOS

Drama Dragon gives a big hug to stu­dents from Jupiter Ele­men­tary School.

The Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion Julie Rowe (from left), il­lus­tra­tor Ja­neen Ma­son and au­thor Ri­ley Roam re­view proofs of the book at the Light­house ArtCen­ter Gallery & School of Art prior to send­ing it to print in Septem­ber.

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