Pitman senior Simar Kaur has always had an interest in performing arts, but it wasn’t until the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic that she realized that theatre was a true passion of hers. Kaur believes that the reason it took her and so many other students so long to come to this realization was simple: there weren’t enough opportunities in the area. In April, she took matters into her own hands by launching the Disco Ball project.
With the Disco Ball project, Kaur offers free lessons for individuals interested in performing arts. The project’s website, www.thediscoball.org, includes downloadable lesson plans covering basic theatre terminology and tips on acting, producing, scriptwriting and more.
“Growing up, there is a major focus on STEM education, so I always felt like my options were limited,” Kaur said. “The two schools I went to didn’t have theatre classes, so I never had the opportunities to learn about the subject.”
Kaur explained that only four Turlock schools currently offer theater or drama courses, which means students may not have the chance to find out whether theatre is something they enjoy. She also realized that students who already have interest in performing arts may not have opportunities to fully embrace their passion as they may be unable to attend certain schools offering these courses based on geographical location.
“I understand that not all students have the privilege of attending a school with theatre classes, so I just thought of a way that could teach people the basics so that their interest can be sparked and that they can come to high school with some experience and knowledge,” Kaur said.
One way Kaur is hoping to prepare students for the high school experience is by giving participants behind-the-scenes looks at some of Pitman High’s theatre productions, including the upcoming fall musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” where Kaur has been elected to serve as student director.
Patrick Norris is the drama teacher and theatre director at Pitman and has known Kaur since his first year of teaching last year. He spoke about her drive to help others embrace performing arts.
“Simar sent me an email about a week before the current school year began describing her vision for the project and asking for permission to involve our current drama students in filming some behind the scenes experiences and events during our upcoming productions. I was blown away by her mission to bring theatre education to as many students as possible, citing her experience in our drama department at PHS as one of the central reasons she found a passion for performing arts,” Norris said.
Norris added that a project like the Disco Ball can have an incredible impact on children in the Turlock community.
“This project and the passion behind it are precisely what I hope to ignite in my students: a passion for the arts and the inspiration to do something positive in the world with one’s creativity,” Norris said. “I too am an alumnus of Pitman High School and its drama department. The educators I learned from inspired my career in Theatre Education. The Disco Ball project and Simar’s leadership can help introduce more students to performing arts and encourage their creativity. The domino affect has the potential to enrich our community and the lives of so many young performers.”
Kaur added that her classmates have already made recommendations and contributions to the lesson plans currently available on the Disco Ball website, with much more still to come. One of the newest features on the website are the Disco Ball podcasts, which cover topics related to theatre as well as life advice, such as mental health awareness. Kaur believes that the advice can help students tackle the stress that comes with being a student and help them take the leap towards achieving career goals in all industries, not just performing arts.
“All it takes for me to consider this project a success is one person. If one child can be inspired to participate in theatre and drama, then I will be happy and it will be all worth it,” Kaur said.
More information and updates on the Kaur’s Disco Ball project can be found at @thediscoball_ on Instagram.