Layer the Walls Poster for Educational Event

2021 ‘Layer the Walls’

August 5, 2021 - December 31, 2021 | VIRTUAL EVENT

Past Event

3rd to 7th Grade

Virtual education workshops on a timely topic, commissioned by the Midwest Trust Center’s Arts Education department.

Children’s theater company Grand Pistachio created the stage performance “Layer the Walls” to honor ordinary people often left out of the history books. The performance explores the stories, revealed in layers of peeling wallpaper, of a New York City tenement apartment that was once home to hundreds of new immigrants. Shadow and Bunraku puppetry, along with masks, bring to life some of the Irish, Italian and Jewish families who have helped shape America.

The 10 workshops based on the “Layer the Walls” theatrical production are asynchronous, so teachers can use them to support curriculum as needed. The episodes are designed to be completed by students on their own time. Subjects covered include history, immigration, puppetry, and theater techniques. Educators can choose from seven prerecorded video options (six individual sessions and one four-session package); video links are good for three weeks after payment.

Educators receive:

  • Prerecorded video link
  • Education guide for each episode ordered
  • Programming that stimulates multiple learning styles
  • Artistic ways for students to engage with immigration content
  • Opportunities for students to actively learn and practice a variety of theatrical styles

Choose from the following options:

Each episode includes:

  • Artist introduction with context and initial questions
  • Excerpt from “Layer the Walls” stage performance
  • Post-excerpt conversation with the artists answering common audience questions

Episode One: Jimmy’s Story (25 minutes) Jimmy McKenna from Ireland battles job discrimination and finds work on the Brooklyn Bridge; told with Bunraku puppetry.

Episode Two: Marco’s Story (20 minutes) Marco Branzini, an Italian fisherman, resists assimilation and survives the Great Blizzard of 1888; portrayed with Italian half-masks.

Episode Three: Goldine’s Story (20 minutes) Goldine Zuckerman, a Jewish garment worker, joins the Uprising of 20,000 to strike for safer working conditions; uses shadow puppetry.

Students actively learn artistic forms and build skills while exploring content related to immigration and the tenements.

Exploring Tenement Life Through Pantomime
Students explore the difficulty of daily life in the tenements through physical tasks such as washing laundry, making bread and battling cockroaches.

Bringing Mask to Life
Students craft a simple rehearsal mask and join the actors as they demonstrate physical techniques for bringing a masked character to life. This workshop includes a list of supplies.

Bunraku Puppetry
Students learn the basics of Bunraku puppetry and explore the Brooklyn Bridge using puppets they craft. This workshop includes a list of supplies.

Inspired by Goldine’s story and circumstances of the 1909 Garment Workers’ Strike, students build shadow puppet characters and join in a structured interactive role play that brings students into NYC 1909-1912. Students are placed in real-life scenarios and asked to make decisions and think about consequences from their character’s perspective.

Content explored: Garment factories, 1909 Uprising of 20,000, immigrant and workers’ rights, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, employer responsibility, Workers’ Rights Legislation

Students will:

  • Interact with primary sources such as images, recordings and newspaper articles
  • Speak and create lines for their characters
  • Create a journal from their character’s perspective
  • Engage in critical thinking and decision making
  • Build empathy by exploring different points of view

Description of the drama
Act 1: The World of The Factory and Rumblings of a Strike
Students build characters who work in the garment factory and learn about the upcoming strike.

Act 2: The Uprising of 1909
Students’ characters join the strike and are met with violence. Students must explore what their character and character’s families are thinking and deciding.

Act 3: Triangle Fire and The Trial
Students’ characters join in the memorial for the workers killed in the Triangle Factory Fire in 1911. After the owners are acquitted, students explore how their characters find resilience.

Act 4: First Legislation to Protect Workers
Students take on the roles of New York State Legislators voting on the landmark bill to protect workers. After students’ characters cast their vote, they return to the current year and make connections to modern movements such as migrant workers’ rights, global sweatshop labor and Black Lives Matter.

Important FAQs

What kind of teacher involvement is needed?
None! All of the programs are designed to be completed by students on their own time. Of course it’s great if a teacher would like to be more involved, but it is not necessary. Additionally, the education guides that come with each episode have activities that can be shared in class by the teacher or done by students on their own.

I don’t have a large team or technical staff to pull off a lot of virtual programs; what can I do?
You can do any of the episodes. They are prerecorded video links to share with your students so they can try new tricks and techniques. The Immersive Historical Drama allows option allows students to respond, act out and think about their own belief systems in a structured and safe manner.


This program is FREE for schools and is underwritten by the MTC Arts Education Program at JCCC. To order the program please complete the form.

Request Workshop(s)