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African myths come to life at NMSU's children's theatre workshop

Myths and legends from the African continent will be acted out by the Children's Theatre Workshop June 24 at 5:30 p.m. at New Mexico State University's Hershel Zohn Theatre.


NMSU has offered the three-week program every summer since 1984 to school children in grades 1-8. Each year a different theme is chosen and the children write original scenes based on readings done in class. This year the performance is based on a book of African proverbs that the children will interpret and make their own.

"When children can create their own ideas they're empowered and become critical thinkers," said Ruth Cantrell, professor of theater arts at NMSU.
Cantrell has run the workshop since its inception 27 years ago. During that time the players have drawn inspiration from various areas including Ancient Greece, Native American culture, medieval times and cowboy culture. Sometimes the theme may not be an ethnic group or historical period but a type of play like comedy or drama.

According to Cantrell, the workshop isn't just about exposing children to theater; it can be used as a vehicle to teach children about almost anything.
"We all learn differently," she said. "One of the things the arts do is allow us to explore different ways of learning."

Cantrell also has NMSU theater and education majors assisting her with the class. This creates a high teacher-to-student ratio which means children can receive individualized attention.

"Teaching creative dramatics is about helping future educators understand how the arts are a great teaching tool and how to integrate the arts into the curriculum," Cantrell said. "The arts aren't something we add to a curriculum, it's part of what we're already doing."

To find out more about the children's theater workshop, contact Cantrell at rucantre@nmsu.edu.