Artist brings performance art to WEMS

Tonight students will be performing on stage as part of Love of Literature week. Leading them is Rosie Stevens Witcher, artist in residence, who is a professional drama instructor.

“One of my specialties is story telling,” she said. “And that really goes along with Love of Literature week.”

Witcher is working with fifth-grade students on skits that will be performed tonight at Williams Elementary/Middle School during parents’ night from 6-7:30 p.m. For the plays the students don’t have scripts.

“It changes the art form compared to just reading it,” she said.

This style of acting allows students who would normally be shy or afraid of forgetting their lines the ability to use their creativity to make up lines, Witcher said.

“You’re tapping into a lot of them, not just the natural stars,” she said. “They become part of the character.”

Witcher started out in theatre when she was young. She trained to be a performing artist but found out family was more important.

“I didn’t want to sacrifice that, so I started volunteering in the school doing exactly what I wanted to do,” she said.

With a master’s of fine art in theatre for young audiences from Arizona State University, Witcher now works for the Arizona Commission on the Arts. The commission helps to pay for the residency.

“It pays about half, and the Williams School District pays the other half,” said Bonnie Dent, art teacher for Williams schools. “It only costs the school district about $2,000 with supplies, so it’s a pretty good deal for us.”

To get a job with the Commission on the Arts is hard work — they only add five artists a year to their group.

“The Commission on the Arts really screens the artists,” Dent said. “They have to be excellent professional artists that work in the art field.”

Dent said the residency program has brought a lot of excellent artists to town to work with kids.

“We’ve had, in the past five years or so, some (artists) that worked with folk art including African masks, Chinese cultural art, recycling garden art — different cultural art,” she said. “We’ve had some really excellent residences.

“Every year they seem to get better than the last and they’re always good.”

The program has been ongoing in Williams for some 20 years Dent said. However, the artists were only here for two weeks.

“We expanded the program so everybody gets a taste of the artist being here,” she said.

This year Dent said she wanted to expose the students to theatre.

“She has an excellent background in performing arts,” she said about Witcher.

During her stay, Witcher worked daily with the fifth-grade, the core group, and weekly with each other grade. One of her projects was making molded masks with the sixth-grade.

“I get to do a whole lot while I’m here,” she said. “It taps into my creativity, which is thrilling to me.”

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