The Waldorf Class Play and Reccomended Reading January 11 2024

From grade one through grade twelve, the annual class play is an essential feature of the life of every Waldorf class. The play is often the defining event of the year, the event most clearly remembered and most often referred to, long after much else of what happened is lost to memory.

Hawthorne Valley Harvest Waldorf Class Play

William Ward, a longtime class teacher at the Hawthorne Valley School in Harlemville, NewYork, was an enthusiastic advocate of the Waldorf class play. Ward understood the importance of the class play for the children, their teacher, and for the broader community. He wrote many plays for his classes over the years.

In the months before his death in September 2008, William Ward prepared a collection of plays, Hawthorne Valley Harvest, as an inspiration and resource for Waldorf class teachers. The book includes the scripts of twenty-four plays—several for each of the first six grades—written over the years by teachers at Hawthorne Valley and successfully presented by students there. The plays render into dramatic form the fairy tales, Biblical stories, tales of saints, and the myths, legends, and historical events that are featured in the Waldorf curriculum for the elementary grades. The list of titles includes Snow White, Saint George and the Dragon, Joseph and his Brothers, The Death of Baldur, and The Epic of Gilgamesh. There is also a model for a multicultural Michaelmas pageant suitable for grades five through eight.

In his introduction, entitled "Praise the Play:' William Ward strongly encourages teachers to write their own plays. He suggests using those in the book as an inspiration and model or, if necessary, as a template to be adapted to a particular class and the various individuals in it. For a teacher, writing a play for one's class can be a transformative experience. It develops imagination and creativity, promotes an appreciation for and facility with "the living word as a bearer of beauty, the light of thinking, the warmth of idealism, and the clarion call to action:'

The class play is also crucial for the children, providing opportunities for individual growth and for growth of the class as a whole. Students learn to work with each other and to appreciate each other's hitherto unknown talents and skills. They learn and develop new capacities, not only in speech and acting, but also in music, costume design, sewing, set design and construction, and publicity. Theater calls on all the arts to bring a play to life. Also, the children must exercise their "playful intuitive power of imitation, empathy, and imagination to enter into the life and being of others:'

If the teacher does the casting with pedagogical intent, a child may, in the process of playing his role, overcome a dysfunctional aspect of temperament. For example, a shy student with a poor self-image might be assigned the lead role in the Native American story "Jumping Mouse:'

Starting out as the timid and fearful Little Mouse, the hero makes his way across mighty rivers and towering mountains. Along the way, he bestows his sight upon a blind bison and his sense of smell upon a wolf deprived of its own. At the end of the journey, because of his courage, generosity, and hope, the mouse is transformed into a majestic eagle.

An appropriate play portrays inspiring heroes and heroines. These are incorporated into the soul life of the children and will remind them far into the future of what is noble, beautiful, true, and good. The tension, conflict, catharsis, loss, and resolution that children act out in the play expands their soul experience and prepares them for what life may bring them in the future. As William Ward observes, “Drama awakens the heart to an experience of new ideals and new worlds of experience:'

And plays, of course, are fun. They are "play"—a more mature version of the imaginative play of the toddler. Each student assumes a new identity and role. The pattern of daily habits and static responses to life is broken. The rehearsals, the memorization, the hard work, all culminate in a joyful and festive event that involves, entertains, unites, and enriches the whole community.

View the title in the bookstore.