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Astrid Varnes

Discipline: Theatre
Homebase: Salmon Arm
Languages: English, French

Astrid is a professional theatre artist who invigorates social studies and language arts classrooms through drama-based learning. She weaves theatre fundamentals such as story, role-play and movement together with student contributions in order to produce original classroom dramas that ignite student learning and bring curricular themes to life. Students build their knowledge, skills and creative confidence through a variety of activities including mime, improvisation, and spoken text, combined with reading, writing and drawing. As a professional actor, Astrid has performed in schools across BC and taught acting workshops throughout the Lower Mainland. She holds a BFA in Acting/Political Science from UBC and an MA in Applied Theatre from the University of Victoria. Her unique background allows her to infuse classrooms with creative and critical thinking, and enables students to connect to curriculum in fresh and meaningful ways.


Testimonials

Astrid worked with my social studies class for two weeks, integrating drama activities into our exploration of the French Revolution. It was a fun, challenging and exciting residency, and a powerful learning experience for my students. The activities Astrid facilitated encouraged a deeper understanding of the important themes of the Revolution. By the end of her time with us, the students' reflections were among the most eloquent and thoughtful I have heard in many years of teaching this material. I firmly believe this is because of the effectiveness of Astrid's activities and the expertise with which she presented them. Her creativity, sensitivity, spontaneity and careful planning combined to create magic in the classroom. I highly recommend her! Celia Dyer, Teacher, Salmon Arm Secondary
Astrid's drama-based approach was a breath of fresh air! The activities she introduced engaged my students' curiosity right away, and encouraged them to look at our short story from an entirely different perspective. Some of the students were a little shy at first, and Astrid worked skillfully and sensitively with them, making sure to move at a pace that was right for everybody. By the end of the session, the context of our short story held much more meaning for my students, and the reflections they offered revealed their own personal connections to the main character's journey. And all of this happened in an atmosphere of creativity and co-inquiry, tailored to my FSL students' level of French... it was wonderful. Magali Forte, Teacher, York House School, Vancouver
Wow! When Astrid began to interact with my students in role, they really 'bought in' and rose to the occasion. They became highly engaged in the process. This is where having an experienced actress, who was able to play off them, was invaluable - and not something I'm sure I could re-create! Megan Reed, Teacher, Bastion Elementary

Project Examples

All Together Now!


Spark community and creativity in the classroom through a whole-group play! Inspiration for this fun and engaging project can come from anywhere - historical events, a collection of objects, a song, even a snippet in the news linked to your curricular theme. The initial work focuses on theatre fundamentals with a special focus on physical expression. An "inspiration package" drawn from the source material is then brought into the mix, and the creative brainstorming begins! Over several sessions, Astrid guides students through the creation of a whole-group play, with their ideas informing the key points of the story. In role, they build, investigate and reflect upon the story, including the values and perspectives that drive the action. The theatrical experience of "walking in someone else's shoes" can deepen students' understanding and empathy for others, as well as develop their skills as performers.

Legacy of Residential Schools


The history and legacy of residential schools can be difficult topics to teach. In this gentle and sensitive project, students focus on one aspect of residential schools: what it feels like to be away from one's family. Using imagination, role-play and drawings, students explore how family bonds are expressed though everyday objects, and the significance these objects gain when passed down among family members. Together, they consider what it means when these bonds are severed, and the potential impacts within families and on individuals. This project invites students to connect on a personal level, and is an effective way to frame subsequent teaching on the impacts of residential schools.

Bringing Stories to Life


In this project, Astrid guides your students through an imagination and investigation of a specific folk tale, myth or novel. The work begins with an array of theatre games to spark imagination, confidence and cooperation among the class. After an introduction to theatre fundamentals such as tableau, mime and improvisation, students become a character in the story and immerse themselves in the fictional journey. They express, debate and reflect on their understandings using their bodies as well as their brains. How will the story end? They decide! This project can be used to hook students before beginning a novel study, or integrated alongside classroom reading for an immersive experience. It is also an excellent way to develop additional-language skills.

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