Playing in the Library: Our Time at Hilltonia Middle School


Last spring, Be The Street partnered with the Hilltop YMCA to participate in their after-school programming at Hilltonia Middle School. Once a week, Shilarna Stokes and I visited Hilltonia and played!

Social arts practice comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes, your organization hosts the work and you can control most of the variables. The participants are your guests and you have authority over how the time might be spent. However, in my years as a teaching artist, this has never been my experience. More often, you are the guest of a hosting organization, working in whatever space they have available, with whomever shows up. Our time with the Hilltonia Middle School was no different.

Shilarna and I would enter with a brief plan and a general overview of what we wanted to attempt over the weeks we had with the students. We had to over-plan, just in case something didn’t work. This also meant that we had to let go of any preconceived performance goal. We instead focused on justĀ playing.


As a result, we worked on our feet a lot, inventing games and learning the rhythm of the students. We found moments of performance, moments of introspection, moments of invention. Despite their differences and the internal politics of the group, they consistently rallied and collaborated to create some new performances.

We also found that these students have an almost unlimited flow of imagination. They always had a story to tell and had no fear of performing! All they needed was the room to spread out, and a willing audience!



Photos from top to bottom, left to right:

1) Jarisza Ware, Jasmine Cuchillo, and Leah Curry-Furbee.

2) Greg McCune

3) Aaron Monroe