Fifth Graders Perform Mesopotamian Myths

On January 17, Ross School fifth graders demonstrated not only their understanding of the myths of ancient Mesopotamia and Sumer, but also their creativity in front of an audience of parents and fourth graders. In a culminating performance, the class divided into three groups, each acting out a different myth: a creation story, the story of the Great Flood, and the legend of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love and war.

The production was several weeks in the making. After reading and analyzing their myth, each student group wrote original scripts, assigned parts, and made costumes, props, and backdrops to give depth to their performances. Then they spent two weeks rehearsing.

The first skit told the creation story, in which the hero god Marduk slew the goddess Tiamat, who represented chaos and disorder in the world, and then created the heavens and the earth from the two halves of her body. Next, he conquered her husband Kingu and used his blood to create humankind. The second group of students reenacted the story of the Great Flood, a myth that has many parallels to the Biblical story of Noah and the Ark (although in the Mesopotamian myth, the flood lasts for just seven days and seven nights). And finally, the third group presented part of the story of Inanna, drawn from The Epic of Gilgamesh, in which Inanna cares for a tree from which she wishes to create a new throne. With the help of the hero Gilgamesh, she slays a serpent and a bird that have taken up residence in the tree.

After the performances, the fifth graders took questions from the audience and reflected on the process of creating their skits. When asked what the most difficult part of the process was, India Galesi-Grant offered, “The hardest thing for me was not smiling” while acting. Everyone agreed that choreographing the movements and learning how to transform themselves and their characters from one moment to the next was a challenge. The group also discussed how they needed to really understand the stories, which are fairly complex, in order to work together to be able to portray them accurately. “It’s almost like a puzzle, and each person is a piece,” said Ella Griffiths.

Cultural history teacher Lea Abrams praised the students for their hard work and their clear evidence of understanding the material. And the students in the audience were entertained as well. Fourth grader Miles Clark liked how seamlessly the class transitioned from myth to myth: “It was like one big play with different stories.”