Cootie Shots is stirring up fun and consciousness everywhere! Since Cootie Shots was published in 2001, countless theatres and schools throughout the United States (and around the world) have been using the plays to promote tolerance and celebrate diversity in their communities. If you would like to start a little COOTIE action in your school or community, please don’t hesitate to CONTACT US!
Here are few stories about some of these productions…
Radio Playmaking During the Pandemic
by Christina Akrong, Education & Outreach Coordinator, Performing Arts, City of Brampton, Ontario Canada
Thank you, Norma Bowles and Fringe Benefits, for allowing us the use of plays from the Cootie Shots collection. These plays are not only fun and engaging for kids, but they have important messages about respect, acceptance, friendship, human rights, and more. In our Radio Plays program, we were trying to be responsive to the needs of families when Covid-19 first emerged, and schools were suddenly closed. We modified a program we had previously been doing in schools with condensed Shakespeare scripts to become an online radio play program.
Over the course of a week, students came together in groups to not only learn, rehearse, and record the play, but also to engage in theatre games and activities to warm up their voices, practice enunciation, explore character and motivation, delve into the messages and meanings in the texts, and develop friendships throughout that helped to mitigate the sudden isolation caused by the school shutdown.
One of our most engaging experiences was with the play The Duke Who Outlawed Jelly Beans. The students who participated bonded so closely, and enjoyed their experience so much, that they extended their daily meetings so that they could work on writing their own sequel! They independently created a google doc, shared it amongst themselves, and then collaboratively wrote a Part 2 of the play.
The audio recordings are posted on SoundCloud.
by Hope Fitzgerald
It has been an incredible year here in Connecticut! Back in September, as my children, Lily and Riley, started attending a new elementary school, I started rehearsing Cootie Shots with nine outstanding students from Fairfield High School for a tour of the Fairfield elementary schools. When I attended my first PTA meeting at my children’s school, the Six-to-Six Magnet School, I learned that the administration wanted to do a school-wide theatre project on the themes of diversity and respect. The next thing I knew, I was leading a Cootie Shots/Theatre for Social Justice program with over 400 students, Pre-K through 8th grade, their families and the entire school staff! Six months later, the school community responded with laughter, tears and standing ovations when the students — 26 classes! — performed their plays, songs and poems. Principal Leslie Alexander remarked that, “The performances proved so clearly that children can make a difference in the world, by being activists in the name of erasing hate.” I couldn’t agree more!
[Editor’s note: The National Association of Multicultural Educators named the Six-to-Six Magnet School: “Multicultural Institution of the Year for 2003,” primarily in recognition of the success of this school-wide program.]
Connecticut Cooties (continued)
Now, here’s the other amazing thing: our modest Cootie Shots Fairfield tour culminated in a Gala Performance at the renowned Westport Country Playhouse which, in turn launched a state-wide tour of Cootie Shots in 2004! The gracious and talented Ms. Joanne Woodward, actor, philanthropist and Artistic Director of the Playhouse, gave a very moving reading of Norma Bowles, Senior’s “Credo,” and then led everyone in singing “Ode to Parents.” Other highlights of the evening include, the high school cast’s performances of several plays (especially Azzam Ahmad’s beautiful “The Child’s Spirit,” set in Kuwait), Chris Wells’ brilliant “Liberty!” (a performance that inspired children in the audience to stand and recite sections of The Bill of Rights — I kid you not!), Gracy Brown’s magical portrayal of “Mother Nature,” Dorian Kearney’s absolutely edible performance of “Chocolate Face” and Mark E. Rosenthal’s hysterical sock-puppet rendition of his own “Snooty Patooty.” We are truly grateful to Joanne, to Hyla Crane, the visionary Playhouse Education Coordinator, and to my dear friend Jayne Atkinson for making the Westport Country Playhouse Cootie Shots production a reality!
Cooties in Pennsylvania Dutch Country
by Maria Beach
Last spring I was approached by one of the coordinators of Kutztown University’s Diversity Festival about directing a play. I decided to produce Cootie Shots because, as a newcomer to this part of Pennsylvania, I was surprised at how much bigotry existed in the area, particularly in nearby Reading, PA (where the Klan has an active presence and where a controversy erupted recently over the city’s failure to provide bilingual ballots for Latino voters). Since Kutztown has a strong Education program, I felt Cootie Shots might be a positive influence on future teachers as well as local schoolchildren. We performed Cootie Shots in late September for KU students and first-through-third-graders from Glenside Elementary, an inner-city school in Reading. When I welcomed the children to Kutztown and the show, I asked them how many had never seen a play before. Well over half of the students eagerly waved their hands. Feedback from the Glenside teachers indicated that the students were excited by the dual experience of visiting a college campus and seeing live theatre. The Glenside audience members were especially enthusiastic about the energetic “Rapunzel” play that satirizes ways girls are conditioned to be “pretty, popular, and perfect,” and a humorous monologue about not catching “Cooties” performed in falsetto by Dante Bruno as a disinfectant-wielding, anti-diversity harridan in a housedress.
Since Kutztown University is in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch farmland, I asked permission to re-cast a character in “The Golden Rule,” a short play about religious diversity and tolerance, as an Amish boy (the Amish and Old-Order Mennonites are the most visible religious minorities in the region). Mike Kneeream, the actor who played the Amish character Caleb, was coached on the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect by Roberta Crisson, chair of my department and the creator and performer of original ethnographic performances about the Pennsylvania Dutch. Cootie Shots was a very good play for us to present at our Diversity Festival, and being allowed to make a change that reflected our community made it even better.
by Cristina Nava
When was the last time you had your “cootie shot”? Hundreds of Los Angeles elementary and middle schoolers had the opportunity to be inoculated this spring when the fabulous Los Angeles Center for Educational Research After-School Program’s Irving Middle School’s Cootie Shots cast toured selections from the tolerance-teaching anthology. Our middle school stars: Ingrid Diaz, Samantha Alfaro, Paola Ortiz, Jocelyn Ramirez, Lillian Ramirez, Luz Sanchez, Alexis Sandoval, Leslie Jardon and Jackie Morales, worked very hard to entertain AND educate audiences at five schools. The cast’s energetic performances had people laughing, cheering AND (during our cast’s rendition of “Stimples”) making silly sounds and noises. It was such a joy to see the group sharing their true blue talent!
It was definitely pure bliss to spend a month touring plays with messages of acceptance. I highly suggest getting your “cootie shot” by purchasing the book and staging any of the 50-some plays, poems or songs in your school, church or even home too! The shot doesn’t even hurt!