Unapologetically Me:
Sharron’s Cabaret for Kids
Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

As you scroll through this guide you will find curriculum connections, notes from the artist, discussion questions, units of study and more. You will also be able to click on any templates, worksheets and/or graphic organizers. If you wish to create your own lesson plan from the study guide copy, we have created a lesson plan template for your use. We hope you will find this guide to be a useful resource. Should you have any questions or feedback or have inquiries about the use of this guide (which is copyright protected), please feel free to contact Karen Gilodo, Associate Artistic Director, Education at kgilodo@youngpeoplestheatre.ca.

This study guide was written by Aimee Bouchard.

THEMATIC OVERVIEW

“DEAR UNIVERSE… I promise to get up EVERY day and CHOOSE to like myself…no matter what…no matter what people say…no matter how I feel that day…no matter ANYTHING!”
– Sharron Matthews

In this study guide, students will explore our 52nd season’s theme of “Finding Yourself” through discussion questions and activities to support their exploration of what makes themselves and others unique. Through activities in the pre-show unit, students will be encouraged to work together to recognize and negotiate feelings of peer pressure and anxiety in themselves and others, as well as to explore the ways they can establish their own power to overcome these feelings. Taking inspiration from Sharron, students will explore what makes them unique in the post-show unit and share it loud and proud in their own class-created cabaret!

It is our hope that this production and study guide will encourage your students to discover, express and celebrate their own unique individuality!

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS

  • The Arts (Drama, Music)
  • Health and Physical Education (Mental Health & Emotional Well-being, Healthy Relationships)

Click here for specific curriculum connections.

CHARACTER EDUCATION CONNECTIONS

  • Respect
  • Perseverance
  • Integrity

THEMES

  • Establishing your own Power
  • Overcoming Anxiety
  • Finding Joy in Music
  • Negotiating Peer Pressure

SYNOPSIS

The day Sharron starts kindergarten, she realizes that she’s different from the other kids. When she is called hurtful names, anxious feelings creep in and she feels like she can’t be herself. Through an hour of pop, rock, funk and story, this interactive show seamlessly integrates contemporary songs with Sharron’s true stories of growing up, facing fears and learning self-acceptance.

An award-winning stage, film and television performer, Sharron Matthews builds a rapport with every audience member, encouraging them to shake off the haters and celebrate the power of being your true self.

GLOSSARY

Anxious
The feeling of being worried or nervous; our body’s reaction to perceived danger or important events.

Cabaret
A form of entertainment featuring music, song, dance and drama, and often weaving together personal stories and anecdotes throughout the various musical numbers.

Direct Address
When a performer speaks directly to the audience during a performance.

Empowerment
The process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially when standing up for yourself and your rights.

First Person statement
A statement spoken as if it was about oneself (e.g. “I am…”)

Forum Theatre
A type of performance (often a short scene in which a character is being oppressed in some way) in which the audience members can stop the scene and perform their own interventions in an attempt to change the outcome of what they are seeing.

Individuality
A quality that distinguishes a person from other people.

Perseverance
Continuing to work towards an achievement despite obstacles and challenges.

INTERVIEW WITH SHARRON MATTHEWS

What inspired you to create a cabaret specifically for kids?

I was inspired by the challenge of creating something specifically for kids and in the end, by the excitement of the children in the workshops of this piece.

I have worked at YPT a number of times and it is truly one of my favourite places to do theatre in the world. Allen MacInnis, YPT’s Artistic Director, had been coming to some of my cabaret shows for adults and talking about how the direct address format of cabaret might be a win with kids. My style of cabaret is created and performed with the notion that everyone in the room is included, everyone in the room is involved and everyone in the room is heard. To accomplish all three of those things in cabaret takes a great deal of focus and can be really hard work, both in the construction of the piece and from up onstage during a performance, but I believe that my experience touring the world with my cabarets and performing for very diverse audiences has been instrumental in achieving this. With this experience behind me and the style of cabaret that I create, Allen hypothesized that both of these things would be perfect in helping to create an exciting and strong cabaret for kids. This was a challenge that I did not take lightly and I circled around the content and storytelling for a long time before I came to the cabaret that I have now.

In your cabaret you sing about unlocking your “Magic Power.” What would you say is your “Magic Power” and how did you realize it?

I hope I am allowed to have three. My first magic power was perseverance and I had no idea that I had it till I grew up. There were a lot of challenges in my life when I was growing up – the death of my father, how that affected my family, being bullied, being lost – but I somehow just kept going and trying to grown and learn. My haven was learning.

My second power was learning to love myself the way I am every day. I did not get that super power till about three years ago…and it has been a real challenge to hone it because the world around us constantly tells us that we are not enough or that we are too much and we struggle to find some balance BUT we are wonderful and right the way we are. We don’t have to fit into anyone’s box. That is the strongest super power ever…I mean, what a relief to not have to be anything other than who you are.

And my third magic power began the first day I heard music coming from the speakers of my blue, plastic record player. I felt such a strong kinship with music and it led me not just to singing but to dance, to friendships with like-minded friends, to joy and, ultimately, to creativity. My love of music inspired me to create dances, to audition for school plays and to write my own stories and songs. Music felt like a true, unconditional friend and that magic power became finding joy and creativity with music. WHAT A MAGIC POWER!!!

What are you hoping young audiences will take away from this show?

That you are perfect just the way you are. That you can be an ally to people who may be having a hard time by just being a friend. That you have a voice, and you can use that voice to express your feelings and hurts. I believe that a lot of the experiences I suffered through whilst growing up -being bullied, experiencing great anxiety, among a few other life changing things – could have been helped greatly by being better aware of the fact that that I had choices, a voice and allies. I don’t feel that as a kid in the middle of all these things that I had a voice…or that I would be heard when I tried to use that voice. I hope that when they come to the cabaret, kids and their guardians, whether it be a teacher, a relative, a friend or a parent, will see that they have the power to find their voice, tell their tale, speak their mind and love and accept themselves just the way they are. You are beautiful right now!

PRE-SHOW DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Have you ever experienced feeling different from everybody else? What is it that makes you feel that way?
  • Does feeling different have to be a negative feeling? Why or why not?
  • What is empowerment? How can you feel empowered?
  • What inspires you to be the best version of you?
  • How and what can music make you feel? What kind of music best represents you? Why?

PRE-SHOW UNITS OF STUDY

Pre-Show Warm-Up: Yes, Yes, You’re the best!

  • This warm-up begins with everyone standing in a circle.
  • One volunteer steps forward and asks the group, “Do you want to hear my story?” and everyone must reply “Yes!” There is only one rule to this game – the group must be as enthusiastic and supportive as possible.
  • The storyteller then proceeds to tell the group a short story (3-5 sentences) about something that happened to them. The story can be as mundane as what they did when they woke up this morning, or it can be entirely made up and fantastical.
  • During the telling of the story, the rest of the group replies with enthusiastic responses and phrases to support the storyteller. When the storyteller finishes their story, the group cheers enthusiastically. Then another person can step forward and ask the group if they want to hear their story, too.

Debriefing Questions

  • Have you ever experienced a time when nobody wanted to listen to you when you had something that you wanted to say? How did that feel?
  • How does it feel to tell a story when you have others listening and encouraging you? Do you think the way you tell the story changes at all?
  • What did it feel like to be a supportive listener? How do we normally listen?
  • Why is it important to share stories?

Pre-Show Activity: Corridor of Voices

Objective

This exercise will allow students to explore the inner feelings and thoughts of characters that are facing an obstacle toward expressing themselves.

Directions

  • Ask the class to stand in two lines, facing one another
  • Read a conflict aloud from a Conflict Card (See Appendix A: Conflict Cards).
  • Ask students to think about that character’s inner feelings, thoughts and concerns. What are they anxious about? What do they think other people are thinking? What will happen if this conflict isn’t solved?
  • One student will volunteer to walk slowly down the “corridor” between the two lines; they will represent the character experiencing the conflict. As they pass people in the lines, these people will say something out loud as if they are the inner feelings, thoughts or concerns of that character. These statements should be in the first-person (e.g. “I’m worried about what my friends will think.”).
  • Repeat the activity, but this time, ask the students instead to say things that character could be thinking in order to empower themselves and to talk themselves through this conflict (e.g. “Anyone who laughs at me for this isn’t a true friend”).
  • Repeat the activity with a new conflict card and a new person walking down the middle.

Debriefing Questions

  • How were you able to imagine the inner thoughts of each character? Was it easier to think of negative thoughts or more positive, empowering thoughts?
  • As the character, what was your experience walking along the corridor, and how did it feel hearing negative thoughts versus positive thoughts?
  • How do you think these different kinds of thoughts would affect the resulting choices and actions of that character?

Pre-Show Culminating Activity: Replay Roleplay

Objective

In this exercise inspired by forum theatre practices, students will role play different conflict scenarios around the theme of “Finding and Being Yourself.” Students will plan and shape the direction of the role play by posing questions and working with others to find solutions, both in and out of role. Students will also explain how a person’s actions, either in person or online, can affect their own and others’ feelings, self-concept and emotional well-being.

Directions

  • Split the class into groups of four to five.
  • Assign each group one of the Conflict Cards that you explored in the previous exercise (See Appendix A: Conflict Cards).
  • In their groups, students will come up with a short scene that presents the conflict on their card. Their scene should have an ending that is unresolved, that doesn’t try to solve the conflict.
  • The first group presents their scene to the rest of the class. Afterwards, discuss what a solution would look like for this character and some ways the conflict could be solved.
  • Have the group perform the same scene again, but this time, anyone can say “freeze” at any time to pause the scene, tap out a character and replace them to change the course of the scene. Students can also think of a different character to introduce into the scene who could solve the problem. The other performers will improvise around this new direction. (Note: it’s helpful if only one or two students call “freeze” in each scene, and if they’re given some time to try out their idea before a second new person enters the scene.)
  • After the scene, debrief with the students on what changed in the scene, and how effective it was in working towards a solution.
  • Repeat the process with the same scene, or ask the next group to present their scene.

Extension

Ask students to come up with their own ideas for conflicts that are relevant to them; play their scene to the rest of the class; and come up with solutions together.

Debriefing Questions

  • Who started out with the most power in this scene? How could you tell?
  • What strategies did you use as a group to try to shift the power to someone else?
  • What does an effective solution look like? How did you know when you’d solved the conflict (or not)?
  • Were there times when a solution didn’t work? If so, why?
  • How did introducing a new character to the scene impact the solution, if at all?

POST-SHOW DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Did you feel like you could relate to Sharron? If so, what part of her story could you relate to?
  • Sharron said she used to feel anxious. What was she anxious about?
  • In Sharron’s opening song, she says that she’s learned that “a word is not a name.” What does she mean by that? How has she overcome being called hurtful names?
  • Sharron says that music is her “Magic Power.” What does she mean by that? Is it really “magic”?
  • What is your “Magic Power”? Why?

POST-SHOW UNITS OF STUDY

Post-Show Warm-Up: Saying Positive Words out Loud

Materials

  • Upbeat music
  • Speakers

Directions

  • This activity is inspired by a moment from the performance.
  • Ask students to move around the class while the music is playing.
  • When the music stops, students turn to the person closest to them and have to say something empowering about the other person (e.g. “You’re a great soccer player!” or “You’re always there to listen!”)
  • When both people in the pair have said something nice about each other, they will have a three-second countdown after which, at the same time, everyone will say the empowering thing that was just said about themselves out loud in the first person.
  • Everyone continues to move around the room until the music stops again. They then stop in front of a new person and repeat the steps above.

Debriefing Questions

  • How does it feel to say something positive about yourself out loud?
  • Why is it important to remind yourself of all the positive things about you?
  • Why is it important to remind other people of the positive things about themselves?

Post-Show Activity #1: “Choices, Voices and Allies”

Objective

Through dramatic role play, students will demonstrate the ability to make connections that relate to health and well-being – how their choices and behaviours affect both themselves and others, and how factors in the world around them affect their own and others’ health and well-being.

Materials

  • Slips of paper (two per student)
  • 2 jars/containers
  • Pens/pencils

Directions

  • Each student receives two slips of paper.
  • Ask students to reflect on an experience when something didn’t go the way they’d planned or when their feelings were hurt. Ask students to record the feeling they experienced in that moment on the first slip of paper. Ask students to deposit this slip into the first jar.
  • Next, ask students to describe how they feel when they are at their very best. Record these on the second slip and put into the second jar.
  • In groups of three to four, each group will pick one slip of paper from each jar – a negative feeling and a positive feeling.
  • Share the following quote from Sharron Matthews, in response to the question “What are you hoping young audiences will take away from this show?”

“That you are perfect just the way you are. That you can be an ally to people who may be having a hard time by just being a friend. That you have a voice, and you can use that voice to express your feelings and hurts. I believe that a lot of the experiences I suffered through whilst growing up – being bullied, experiencing great anxiety, among a few other life changing things –could have been helped greatly by being better aware of the fact that that I had choices, a voice and allies.

  • Using their two slips of paper, students will create a short scene that begins with the given negative feeling (they can invent a scenario for why the character feels that way), and ends with the given positive feeling. In order to arrive at the positive feeling, these short scenes should consider:
    1. Choices – What kinds of choices can this character make to feel less like the negative feeling and more like the positive one?
    2. oice – What kinds of things can this character say (to themselves and to others) to give themselves the positive feeling?
    3. Allies – Who can this character go to for support?

Debriefing Questions

  • Can we always decide how we feel in the moment when we experience something that hurts our feelings? What kinds of choices can we make in these moments?
  • Do you find it easy to speak up for yourself? Why or why not?
  • Can you always tell when someone’s feelings are hurt? Why or why not?
  • Do you find it easy to recognize when other people might need help or support? Why or why not?
  • Do you find it easy to ask others for help or support? Why or why not?
  • Are there any other allies we can think of that weren’t mentioned in these scenes?
  • Can you think of some ways that you can use choices, your voice and your allies in your own life?

Post-Show Activity #2: Music & Lyrics

Objective

Students will identify factors that affect the development of a person’s self-concept, and work together to apply the elements of music when singing, composing and arranging music to re-write the lyrics of a favourite song.

Directions

  • Reflect on the following post-show discussion question: Sharron says that music is her “Magic Power.” Discuss what she means by that, and ask students to identify their own “Magic Powers.”
  • Once students have each identified their “Magic Powers”, ask them to group themselves together into similar categories (i.e. students whose powers are related to sports in one group, visual art, reading/writing, music, etc).
  • Next, groups will each select a favourite song. This can be a popular song they are listening to now, or it can be any song they think will work well with their “Magic Power” theme.
  • Students will then work together to re-write the lyrics to this song to reflect on the effects these have on empowering them.

Extension

Students can also choose to choreograph a dance to their song, or to create a music video (performed live or recorded on video). If any students play an instrument, you can also encourage them to bring it in and accompany their songs.

Post-Show Culminating Activity: Class Cabaret

Objective

Using the songs they’ve written, students will focus on exploring drama structures, key ideas and pivotal moments in their own stories to create their own class cabaret.

Directions

  • Ask the class for their input on how they would like to order their songs.
  • Ask the students to write an introduction to their songs, including a personal anecdote or story that can lead into their song. You may want to discuss what kinds of stories Sharron told to transition between her songs, and what made these stories effective as transitions.
  • Give students time to rehearse and memorize their song and introduction, as well as to add any choreography, props or costumes they want to work with.
  • Students can then perform their cabaret to each other, to the school, or even on a special evening for friends and family. Ask students to create an introduction and conclusion to their cabaret, which could be either spoken or even sung as a whole other song that the class writes together. You may also consider including interactive moments with the audience, discussing why Sharron made the performance interactive; what effect this had on the audience; and what the students can do to have a similar impact on their audience.

APPENDIX A

Click here to download.

RESOURCES

Kids Help Phone

Children’s Mental Health Ontario

Canadian Mental Health Association – Toronto Youth Zone

The SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health, formerly the Hincks-Dellcrest Treatment Centre

Central Toronto Youth Services

Glow Program

Dove Self – Esteem Project, resources for youth groups and teachers:
Resources for Youth Leaders
Resources for Teachers and Schools