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Best of the Week 2021-2022: Excellence in College Prep


Freshman English students have been reading Romeo and Juliet and, through this week's workshop experience hosted by Great Lakes Theater, students learned how to stage fight, rehearsed key scenes in Shakespeare's play, and developed a deeper understanding of the characters, their motivations, and their actions. "This opportunity has allowed my students to dive headfirst into the performance aspect of Romeo and Juliet. In the classroom, we often ask students to read or observe a play, but this experience allows them to look at things through a different lens as an actor," says English teacher Ashley Ventura. "Some concepts in Romeo and Juliet are just explained better when they are performed personally, not just from observing the scenes. This experience gives students a better understanding of character motivation, word choice, and intentionality. The best innovators are the ones who can escape the confines of their own minds and lived experiences and step into the world of someone else to gain a better understanding of their needs, desires, and motivations to create something that will change our world." "Seeing professional actors really brings the emotion of the scenes to life for the students. They bring so much thought and care into exactly how they perform each role and how to make the characters' motivations visible," says English teacher Jessica Hilty. "Whether students are interacting as the Montague and Capulet servants, dancing at the party, sword fighting or reading lines, the actors ask them to think about what it would be like in that time and place and what they would be thinking or feeling if they were there. The actors also led discussions after performing each scene, allowing students to share their own ideas about love and the other themes of Romeo and Juliet. I love watching our students light up and genuinely have fun with Shakespeare, especially the ones who never thought they would enjoy it." "Our students are incredibly engaged kinesthetic learners. This experience gets them mobile with a classic play that can sometimes feel a bit rigid and stiff when only analyzing the text or traditional renderings. Not only do the Great Lakes Theater residency actors perform at a masterful level, but they also instruct about stage directions, history and social issues pertaining to the play while holding our students accountable to decorum and performance standards," says English teacher Mark Urban. "Students are able to apply knowledge about the play from the classroom setting and challenge themselves to make that learning visible and performative. It's fun to see students who are naturally performative with good comedic and dramatic timing get a chance to flourish and I appreciate our students' willingness to immediately get out of their comfort zones."

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