MSA Theater expands beyond classroom
Math, Science, and Arts Academy high school theater students are taking their classroom projects outside school walls. Recently a class of nine advanced theater students performed The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged at Baker High School, and then two first- and second-year theater classes performed poems in a live broadcast to students at a progressive project-based high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico called Nex+Gen Academy.
Vice principal Laree Taylor of Baker High invited the MSA students to perform after hearing of their project. The students brought all their props and costumes in a huge bin, and created transportable curtains by stringing black sheets across three wooden posts the P.E. department uses to hold up volleyball nets. “We were like a travelling theater troupe, and it felt great. It’s fun to perform at school in front of your friends, but when you perform on the road, it really helps you develop your skills and confidence as a speaker,” said tenth grade actor Brannon Basil.
They performed two runs of the hour-long show in the library for more than one hundred people. “We performed for the seniors first, and then ninth and tenth graders,” said Jeremy Jones, an actor in the show. “I was nervous because it was the first time we performed it outside of our comfort zone, but I think the play went well,” he said. “The crowd was very involved: they laughed the entire time, and we even received a standing ovation.”
The next day, a different set of students had their own moment in the spotlight. After memorizing and perfecting poetry performances for the Black History Living Museum in late February, about twenty theater students broadcast their performances lives to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Teacher Patrick Cronin explained, “I met Bonny McDonald when she was in graduate school coaching college students to perform poetry competitively. I knew her students would have something great to offer, and they really came through.”
Some students spoke alone, and others did group performances they created in class. Ninth grader Tristan Broussard was part of a group rendition of Peter Spiro’s poem “Cause and Effect.” She said, “At first it was stressful performing live, but I got into it because I really connect with the poem we were reciting. I feel better after performing it to other people because I get something off of my chest.” Classmate and fellow performer Jalen Davis said, “Interacting with people in New Mexico in the middle of theater class shows the wide range of technology our school is using right now. “
Brandon Foster, a ninth grader who performed, “Boys in Search of Their Soular System” with eleventh grader Destinee Hamilton said, “It was interesting to see students from a different city—they acted different and looked different: lots of mixed ethnicities, lots of Latino kids. They applauded after each poem—their response was very genuine.”
“My students are overflowing with talent,” said teacher Bonny McDonald, “and this week it busted out of the school.”