By Ashleigh Provoost (V)

This year’s drama students have had to face an unparalleled level of difficulties in regards to their craft. With masks, remote classes, and social distancing, drama classes have been completely revamped to accommodate new health guidelines. Despite the adversity, the enthusiasm of the Drama Department still remains strong––especially that of senior actors. They faced their challenges with the utmost rigor, putting on a performance at the December 9 Drama IV Assembly that didn’t disappoint. 

Every year, in designing the assembly, the group of seniors in the Drama IV class choose headlines that address events occuring in society. The students then write, direct, and act in scenes based upon the headlines they have chosen. What made this year so different, though, was the emphasis on the tumultuousness of the latter half of 2020. “We were aware going in that this, historically, is a production that students use to talk about social issues,” Cal Mahoney (VI) said. “We thought that it would be strange not to bring up everything that was going on.”

The ultimate goal of the assembly was to start conversation. “We needed to bring attention to the fact that people ignore or repress their reactions to hard situations,” Mahoney continued. “We wanted to bring attention to these current situations through the usage of both humor and scenes with strong themes in hopes to start that conversation.” 

“The community needs conversation,” notes Ms. Stephanie Romankow, the Drama IV teacher. “With conversation, we continue to learn and grow together. Student perspectives and voices are the most powerful in this community, and we wanted to give the students the ability to share that voice.”

The Drama IV class also collaborated with Ms. Shelley Hartz, Director of Community and Civic Engagement, to delve more into the curriculum and history of the scenes prior to their development. “The students weren’t making up stories,” Ms. Hartz said. “They were using stories that actually happened; the inequities, unintentional biases, and microaggressions that were occurring concurrently really resonated with them. This is why the scenes carried such a strong tone.”

Naturally, the usual collaborative process that goes into the presentation of this assembly proved to be much more difficult this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. “This has not been an easy feat,” Ms. Romankow said. “Theater is all about connection, and this year there are multiple barriers in terms of masks and social distancing. The seniors, though, were able to take these obstacles in stride and really succeed.” 

This group of seniors is quite a remarkable and diverse one. Having been together for four years, the students in the class have built a community that supports one another. The closeness they share makes the collaboration needed for this assembly all the more meaningful. “The collaborative part of it was super important, especially because of our comfortable class dynamic,” Mahoney said. “We’re not afraid to get deep.”

The Drama IV Assembly most certainly achieved the goal that the students had hoped for. “It was weird as an actor to not know how you were perceived. It was hard to tell if the performance was successful, but [the class] decided that it had to be … People were listening and they confronted these current issues.” Mahoney also spoke to the uniqueness of this specific performance: “We challenged people’s perceptions of theater. It was a good decision to do something that the audience had trouble to watch. I think that a lot of these scenes made people uncomfortable; discrimination was right in front of you, and you had to watch it happen. And that was the point.” Ms. Romankow added, “Kids did not know how to react to the ending of the assembly. They needed to take pause, and that’s important for us to do. We’re not providing the answers to these issues; we’re just sharing our perspective.”

Ms. Romankow couldn’t emphasize enough how proud she was of the senior class. “The impact this had on the class was invaluable. It allowed for creative expression and for expression of values and concerns and community. It certainly was meaningful, at least for me, to work through this process with the kids.” She also spoke to the senior class as a group: “The amount of openness, connectivity, care, generosity, and risk-taking from this group is tremendous. I can’t imagine what they’re going through as seniors, but I am truly honored to be going on this journey with them.”