Opal Whiteley: Journal Of An Understanding Heart

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OPAL WHITELEY:  JOURNAL OF AN UNDERSTANDING HEART STUDY GUIDE
prepared by Cathy Kaemmerlen

THIS PROGRAM IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE

ARTIST BACKGROUND:
Cathy Kaemmerlen, professional actress, dancer, and storyteller, is known for her variety of characters, one-woman shows, and for her rapport with audiences.  A performer and “creator of shows” since she can remember, she has toured in schools coast to coast, since receiving a BA in English/elementary education from UNC-Charlotte, and a MFA in dance performance/choreography/theatre minor at the University of Wisconsin. She tours through Young Audiences of Atlanta, the Georgia and South Carolina Touring Arts Rosters, Fulton County SAP, and has received numerous grants and honors, including, most recently, Outstanding New Interpreter with the National Association of Interpreters. She is the author of three non-fiction books.

CURRICULUM CONNECTION:
This play takes place at the turn of the century (early 1900’s) with the setting in a logging camp in the woods of Oregon.  It ties in with social studies units about late pioneering life, logging, and with language arts, diary writing.

PROGRAM OBJECTIVES:
-To look at journal writing as a literary form.
-To promote reading and writing.
-To encourage journal/diary writing.
-To see the value of preserving family stories.
-To believe in yourselves and in the wonder of life.

PROGRAM SUMMARY:
An uplifting, moving play based on the turn of the century true diary of Opal Whiteley, age 6, who grew up an orphan in the early 1900’s, living in nineteen different lumber camps in the state of Oregon by the time she was 12.  She began writing her diary at the age of six, writing on paper bags, pieces of material, any scrap of writing material she could find.  Torn up by a jealous foster sister, Opal reconstructed the pieces of her diary in puzzle fashion, under the auspices of the editor of the ATLANTIC MONTHLY, Ellery Sedgewick, who housed Opal during this time.  This performance is a portrayal of the young Opal Whiteley, as she recounts some episodes from her diary.

VOCABULARY WORDS:
scrutinize
foster child
nuisance
diary
logging camp
free verse poetry

The diary begins: Today the folks are gone away from the house we do live in.  They are gone a little ways away to the ranch house where the grandpa does live.  I sit on the steps and print.

OVERVIEW OF ART FORM:
Telling stories is an oral tradition, dating back to when mankind first developed a language or form of communication.  Storytelling is a universal way of passing down information to be saved and remembered for generations to come.  It is an interactive art form in which the storytellers’ passion for the story, material, and information is passed on to the audience, who sorts through, interprets, stores, and synthesizes what is heard.

PRE & POST ACTIVITIES
-Read other journals, such as THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK and talk about the importance and value diaries play in our interpretation of history and times.
-Start journal writing in the classroom.  Encourage ten to fifteen minutes of writing a day.
-Choose a favorite storybook character. Write a journal from that character’s point of view.
-Encourage each student to select a period of history (the Revolutionary War, Civil War, the slave trade, settling of the West.)  Ask students to jump back in the historical  time line and write a journal for someone in a certain period of history.

Warm Up Questions for meeting the Georgia Performance Standards for “Listening/Speaking/Viewing”:
Describe the perfect audience.
What are some of our class rules for being good listeners?
How do we show someone we appreciate their visit to our school or classroom?
How does being part of an audience help make you a good citizen?
What are some examples of bad audience behavior or attitudes?
How does a negative audience member effect your enjoyment of a show or performance?
How would this make the performer feel?
How do we want the performer to feel when they leave our school or classroom?

RESOURCES:
THE AMERICAN GIRL books
OPAL WHITELEY:  JOURNAL OF AN UNDERSTANDING HEART edited by Jane Boulton
ONLY OPAL by Jane Boulton/Barbara Cooney
WRITING DOWN THE DAYS by Lorraine Dahlstrom
DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL by Anne Frank
DIARY OF A CHURCH MOUSE by Grahm Oakley
DIARY OF A FRANTIC KID SISTER by Hilda Colman