Paula Larke’s roots are both urban and rural, from Alabama and the Carolinas. She studied English Literature at Manhattanville College, music theory at Boston University, and poetry at the New School for Social Research. She acted in Broadway and Touring productions of the New York Shakespeare Festival. She tours independently throughout the U.S. as storyteller, musician, keynote speaker, and guest lecturer for educational, religious, and community development organizations. She has worked as a teaching artist and guest performer in colleges, churches, universities, schools, and juvenile detention facilities. Paula has delivered comedic storytelling and musical performances to all ages, advocating intergenerational, interracial, intercultural respect, cultural integrity, and social accountability. She taught music notation and fractions through drumming, life skills through dance, and drama in rural Kentucky. Her most recent work, within her local community, uses music and story-sharing as a common bond, helping to acclimate refugees in the responsibilities, legalities, logistics, and civil liberties of American democracy.
Arts Disciplines: Theatre/Drama, Storytelling, Music, Dance, Creative Writing, Poetry/Spoken Word, Collaboration with Mimes and Choreographers
Core Content Curriculum Areas: Theatre/Drama, English/Language Arts, Physical Education, Health and Wellness, Music, Dance, Math, Social Studies/History
Specialized Content Areas: Arts Integration, Character Education, STEAM, Social-Emotional Learning, ELL (English Language Learners), Literacy, World Cultures, Anti-bullying
Grade Levels: Pre-K, K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Adult Ed, GED
Special Populations: ESOL, Adult Ed, Incarcerated Youth, Family, Addiction Recovery, Child Witness to Violence
Pre-Service Learning and Professional Development: Post-Secondary/Pre-Service Learning, Professional Development for K-12 Teachers, Professional Development for Teaching Artists, Infusing Art for Communities
Geographic Availability: DeKalb, Gwinnett, Metro Atlanta, North Georgia, Middle Georgia, South Georgia, Clarkston, GA
- Performances: $1,500
- Workshops: $400-$800 (4 hours per day – 1-2 days)
- Residencies: $400 per day (4 class maximum per day for 1-2 weeks)
Leaving academia behind with a full tuition National Achievement scholarship catapulted Paula Larke into the “sink or swim” hands-on learning of the “auto-didact.” For over thirty years, in whatever field beckoned her potential, Paula’s talents, knowledge, and effectiveness as performing and teaching artist have been honed and enriched by the experience.
Working in both rural and urban communities, churches and schools, Paula developed skills to engage and affect the disaffected, galvanize focus and find consensus, and draw out creativity. She has blended her talents with other musical and theatre artists, community organizations, and national foundations – from her start as stagehand and understudy to Broadway, eventually to collaborations with the likes of Alliance and Carpetbag Theatre, through The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (Rural People, Rural Policy Peer Learning). She takes her unique blend of storytelling, folk-soul-afrobeat-blues-rap- gospel music, and audience interaction into civic clubs, businesses, schools, community centers, rest homes, and hospitals, receiving rave reviews from each venue. This has been her experience and training in dealing effectively with both privileged and marginalized or traumatized populations: sharing her art with diverse cultures, communities, and personalities of all ages.
Paula’s life is her art; she conveys this approach to students within the context of their academic studies and their personal life choices, which she calls simply, “the sharing of intelligences.” Affirming the innate abilities and highest concerns of each student, Paula excels in the classroom as inspiration and motivation. She finds the common thread and weaves the students together in intention and execution.
Paula has worked in rural KY with Promise Neighborhood – Partners in Education, Berea College. There she taught K-6, including 4th, 5th grade Drumming for Math, 4-8th grade Social Studies, as well as 8-12th grade Popular Music and Public Health. At South Atlanta High School, she taught students in grades 9-12 American History, Music, and Theatre, with special emphasis on Law, Race Relations, Health, Language Arts, and Poetry.
At Clarkston Community Center, through her program C.U.L.T.U.R.E., she hired and coached local American artists in teaching non-English speakers guitar, violin, and percussion. With ESOL classes, she used forum theater to facilitate intercultural communications with high school students.
As Visiting Artist with the NC Arts Council, Paula served three community colleges. Her work in these residencies honed her performance and workshop abilities. She was community performer at large for schools, senior centers, community recreation centers, civic organizations, churches, and business councils, as well as guest artist for professional development conferences.
Her work with special populations includes residencies with Adult Learners through Arts – Kellogg Foundation, Mary R. Babcock Foundation, the NEST early learning and parenting center, Lexington, KY, addressed family violence, health, and wellness with music and storytelling for children and families.
- Our Shared Aesthetics: Recognizing Origins
- 4th -8th grades 2-3- day residency, 2- 4 classes per day, mornings preferred Paula presents the poetic form of Haiku, first in its original style and translated language, showing (if smart board, You Tube and good internet allow) traditional performances of Japanese culture as context and reference. She then explains and discusses with class the phenomenon of assimilation, the appropriation of language, fashion, or behavior from various cultural and ethnic perspectives. Using drum, bass, banjo or small percussion as incidental accompaniment, she details, in “capsule stories” immigration and migration experiences of Caribbean, African, Asian, and European peoples through song and real-life accounts taken from oral histories. Students are allowed to pick from a list of countries from which our ancestors immigrated. They then choose one of her stories, do deeper research, on computer or from library books, on the social status and experiences of families or individuals referenced in them and write “sensory image” haikus, which are then put into a rhythm chosen by the student, reflecting that individual or family. They discern what about the haiku has retained the essence of Japanese aesthetics.
- Performance – theater, auditorium, library or multi-purpose room
- Research (second day) – Classroom or library
- Performance – sound system (artist provides)
- Research – internet and smart board or flip chart (artist provides)
- HDMI and audio cables to smart board from laptop
- Myths That Matter
- 4th-8th grades
- 1 day, 2-4 classes, mornings preferred
- Basing rhythmic and melodic references in folk, country, Afro-beat, and rap, with bass, banjo, and vocals, Paula’s introductory performance presents cautionary tales from the West African, African American, and Southern rural and urban experience. She relates stories within the context of the social and political climate of the time and place from which the stories originate. Students learn call and response rhythms, rounds, chants, and (if space allows) play-party dances from the Georgia Sea Islands, West and Central Africa, and the Caribbean. They learn to make metaphorical images (statues) with their bodies to reflect events or emotions of the time. The stories evoke character traits which students discuss (1) in the context of our own culture, then (2) of the traditions and beliefs of the place, time, and people who created or lived the stories. Stories are from Ghana and Senegal, the Caribbean and Coastal Georgia and the Carolinas. Topics: belief versus superstition, faith versus myth and manipulation of myth.
- SPACE: open area for dancing and/or pantomime.
- TOOLS: camera to capture metaphorical images
- For all programs, artist requires focused assistance from students or maintenance staff in load-in and set-up of instruments with no extraneous conversation.
Sample Lesson Plans/Study Guides: