2015 Kaleidoscope Plus Family

Both the students and faculty of Kaleidoscope Plus (K+), Settlement Music School’s after-school program at the Mary Louise Curtis, have been involved in a very ambitious project since the start of the 2015 calendar year. The program, launched in 2013, has incorporated art and theater lessons into after-school program since its inception. This year, both components of the program have been merged into a movie-making project.

An epic tale featuring mischievous raccoons, heroic turtles, bewildered humans, and many other characters came about through a bit of elaborate storytelling by one student as he read from a book of sea animals. The film, ultimately titled “The Tale of Thomas Lookie and the Lousy Raccoon Invasion,” took off from the original storyline, with other students adding new twists and turns and introducing new characters to the action.

This type of activity, says Manon Manavit, the theater instructor for K+, introduces students to a very important skill: “improvisation as a gateway to performance.” Making up new things to add to the story and then acting out those elements helps to introduce the students to the basics of playing and embodying characters while leaving room for improvisation. “We created an ensemble feeling, with everyone building toward the same goal, and we had a lot of fun working together,” she says.

The film took shape through daily filming sessions in the classroom, around the branch, and during outdoor playtime in Weccacoe Park. Though the program runs five days a week, some students attend fewer days due to flexibility for their parents. The cast of characters would vary day-to-day, but every student was ready to chip in by playing his or her part or by filling in as a member of the ensemble.

The art component of the project is even more extensive and impressive: students designed sets, costumes, masks and props. Notable highlights include a model city designed for the raccoons to pelt with snow and “destroy,” and a giant sandwich to lure the raccoons near the movie’s end.

“After the filming was done, there was still more art to make,” says Scott Slezak, one of two art instructors for K+. “We said, what are the things we need to present this as a real movie?” That led to creating posters to advertise the film screening, plus costumes for the movie theater’s “ushers,” signs for the concession stand, and more.

The combined theater-and-art project helped to reinforce elements of the program’s curriculum throughout the year. “The theme for this year has been getting to know your neighborhood and exploring yourself, and art is a great way to get to know yourself,” says Liza Dolmetsch, the second K+ art instructor. In creating the fictional town of Ocean City, students thought about the houses and streets from their neighborhoods and then represented them with models. “There’s a lot of room for kids to do what they’re comfortable with, and also things to push them out of their comfort zone,” Dolmetsch says.

The final product, assembled and edited by Manavit to a roughly 30-minute runtime, will be presented to K+ parents and families on Wednesday evening, June 3. Doors open at 4:30 PM, with the screening to start at 5.

“I don’t know how we top this next year,” Slezak says. 

The Kaleidoscope Plus Faculty

Manon Manavit

Theater instructor, Kaleidoscope Plus After School Program

Faculty member since 2014

Liza Dolmetsch

Artist teacher, Kaleidoscope Pre-K
Art instructor, Kaleidoscope Plus After School Program

Faculty member 2011-2015

Scott Slezak

Head teacher, Kaleidoscope Pre-K
Art instructor, Kaleidoscope Plus After School Program

Faculty member since 2009