I've finished curating the content for my "Art as Play" unit.  My Arts History class compromises of a small group of girls in 11th and 12th grade.  A lot of the content in this unit is quite girlish and youthful, which the girls probably won't mind it, but for the sake of balance and comprehensiveness, I need more variety in future units.

Puns & Wordplay:

I'm planning an activity on puns and wordplay, using the resources from this post.  I know some of the girls are obsessed with Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, so I'll be using the songs "Beauty and the Beat" and "We Are Never Getting Back Together" to illustrate different forms of wordplay.  I'll have them analyze just the songs first.  Then I'll have them watch the music videos and add on to their analysis of "play" in the works.  

Taking the well-known story "Beauty and Beast", Justin Bieber puts a spin on it and contemporizes it: the setting isn't some castle on the outskirts of rural village but a nightclub.  And the story isn't about a beauty and a "beast", but a beauty and a "beat."   As an added plus and with a bit of a smirk, you're left wondering if Bieber is the beast who's on the prowl for a beauty in the club.  

Swift's song, which I love for its playfulness and sassiness, has that refrain of "wee-eeee!", a sound of pure exhilaration and glee.  What I love about it is that while it sounds juvenile and playful, it's a very grown up thing that she's doing by committing to walking away from an unhealthy relationship.  Girl ain't playin' around.

The Song "What is This Feeling?" from Wicked:

This song is genius.  A complete satire of mushy love songs and all of those warm, fuzzy feelings we get when it love.  Instead of love for one another, these roommates - enemies - are totally and completely in "loathe."

In "The Grimmerie" production book that I purchased at the merch table when I saw Wicked live, composer Stephen Schwartz explains his inspiration for the song:
Winnie gave me the notion of writing a "hate-at-first-sight" song.  That seemed like a good idea to me, very amusing.  So I listened to a lot of classic falling-in-love songs.  And I just wrote down all the phrases from the lyrics.  The phrase "What is this feeling" stuck in my head.
So the song is essentially a play on sappy love songs.  Their hearts are pounding, their faces are flushing, their pulses are racing...but not because they're in love, because they despise one another.  

Selections from Eve Ensler's "I Am An Emotional Creature"

This is a great collection of monologues written by Ensler inspired by conversations she had with young women across the world.  It addresses themes like relationships, body image, self-esteem, family, friendship, sex, abduction and rape, dreams, and the badassness of being a confident, self-assured female.  I highly recommend this read for teenage girls, young women, and anyone who works with girls.  Hell, it's great for any woman.  It'll remind you of struggles and questions and dreams you had when you were younger, and it gives you the opportunity to reflect.

Two selections from this collection seem a great fit for my "play" unit.  The first is a set of three "conversations" between two young women.  They're playing the game "Would You Rather?"  What's supposed to be a playful game turns sour when the girls realize how limited their choices are and how their choices can label them as a prude or whore in the eyes of their peers.  The reading puts an interesting spin on the idea of play.  It's supposed to be a light-hearted game, a playful conversation, and instead their play reveals some very serious double-standards and struggles of being a teen girl.

The second reading, "My Short Skirt" plays with the stereotype of women who wear provocative clothing asking for sexual attention.  Ensler plays with the stere

Fairytales Retold

I love Francesca Lia Block's books, especially the Weetzie Bat series in "Dangerous Angels" and her collection of retold fairytales in "The Rose and The Beast".  She plays with traditional fairytales and rewrites them in a modern, grittier context.  I plan to have the girls read the traditional "Sleeping Beauty" and then compare it with Block's version entitled "Charm."  I'm always disturbed by the underlying sexual connotations in fairytales and Disney films.  The girls seem to live for a man.  Once they've got their guy, their story ends.  It's frustrating.  Block's fairytales are certainly about love, but the female protagonists are much more complex.  The characters in general are flawed.  She brings themes of desire and lust to the forefront.  She doesn't marry the girls off to make the romance acceptable like in Disney films.  Their "happily ever after" comes with self-acceptance and building relationships that are nurturing and fulfilling.   

Looking over all of the unit content, it's quite a variety, and I'm pleased I was able to bring in so many contemporary, relevant works that students are already interacting with.  The unit starts in two weeks, so now it's time to start designing the activities and start collecting materials for the following unit, "Art as Narrative."

Any ideas for "play" resources to use in the future or "narrative" ideas for my upcoming unit?  Remember, all genres are on the table: lit, music, visual art, film, advertisements, etc.

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    About Me

    A lover of literature and the arts and an advocate for global awareness and active citizenship, I spend my days with high school English and Social Studies students exploring why it all matters and how they can have a voice in the world.  This is my space to document and reflect on my practice, note happenings in education, and share my appreciation for the arts.


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