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Theater: The Missing Piece At d.tech

Courtney Sullivan Wu | csullivanwu19@dtechhs.org | June 7, 2018
Photo by Nicholas J. Garland

You leap out of the wings, blinded by the stage lights for a split second as you face the audience. You can’t help smiling as the music starts to speed up, confident your months of rehearsing has prepared you to the fullest. You’re sweaty and exhausted, but as the crowd applauds, you’ve never been happier. Spoiler: This has yet to happen at d.tech.

Many d.tech students feel that a permanent arts program is the missing piece at d.tech. They wish there was a musical theater program, specifically, supported by the school and acknowledged as equally as robotics or sports.

“I wish we had a theater program that was not just during intersession, that actually hosted musicals at the school,” said Maeve Kelly, a junior who has taken the theater class for four intersessions. This is a common feeling amongst students at d.tech who have an interest in the arts. They feel that the existing outlets aren’t enough. Currently, the school offers theater solely through intersession, as one of the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) credit classes. While there have been attempts to form a more rigorous theater experience at d.tech in the past, it hasn’t been successful enough to continue the following years.

The first attempt at a theater production was initiated by senior Nicholas Garland. With support from d.tech’s intersession coordinator, Dr. Wendy Little, Garland launched the program by partnering with Hillbarn Theater, a local theater company. This led to a single performance of “The Bully Plays” during Garland’s sophomore year, in 2016. “The Bully Plays” featured short scenes centered around forms of bullying, and was performed in the middle of concentric chair rows during a lunch at the Rollins Road campus.

The next attempt was a year later by juniors Maeve Kelly, Taline Kravinian, and Izabella Guerrero, who founded a theater club at the beginning of their sophomore year in 2016. Their goal was to “bring a theater program that was a reoccurring thing” and create “a theater program that worked with the students who wanted to be in theater,” said Kelly. However, their club soon disbanded from a lack of student participation and communication issues with d.tech staff. At the end of that same year, a 15 minute musical called “21 Chump Street”, was performed. “21 Chump Street” follows the story of a high school student who buys drugs for and gets busted by an undercover cop he falls in love as an attempt to impress her. Their performance was thanks to a group of students and the support of d.tech parent and last year’s theater intersession teacher, Paul Godwin.

While the school has been able to mark small milestones for a theater program, nothing greater has developed. This issue is due to lack of school support, lack of a physical performance space, and diminishing student initiative. Many student feel that there is a large difference in theater appreciation, support, encouragement, and recognition compared to entities such as robotics and sports. Rarely d.tech celebrates what students are doing in the theater community, yet students receive recognition for technology accomplishments more often than art, such as our award for self directed superstar during school community meeting, which is most commonly been awarded to those who create a physical project or space rather than non-physical accomplishments like getting a lead in a show, or acknowledgement in our schools d.tech downloads. We also have a two-story DRG, but no location to comfortably practice Performing Arts. While all students recognize that robotics and athletes don’t “have it all”, they notice this imbalance of representation from the school.

Others feel that the school needs to provide support in a different manner. Students would greatly appreciate if a staff member were able to act as a strong backbone to a developing theater program. However, as many have noted, no one seems to be interested. “With the staff we have, the school’s done the best they could do” says Garland. Having a teacher to help guide and teach theater students would be helpful in a developing program. However, hiring would be difficult as “that’s just not in the funding budget, and not just funding, but where [would you] put the class?” says Dr. Little. Space and money is a huge constraint when it comes to activities at d.tech. Without the financial or spacial reassurance, students have to get more creative in order to make a program happen.

Students want a theatre program that is more permanent and established at d.tech, yet student drive and initiative has seemed to falter after each attempt. Those who would be interested in creating or participating in a theater program all report being too busy to start and run an entire program. However, it’s hard for the school to measure interest and student commitment when those who would participate gave up on trying.

d.tech is home to passionate students that thrive on the freedom to create and take initiative. However, if those who claim they are passionate for the Arts lack the drive to initiate any theater development, how will the school be able to meet their needs? While the theater intersession has been a great start for a developing theater program, it will take a lot more support and communication in order to make anything happen.

One thought on “Theater: The Missing Piece At d.tech

  1. Agreed! A drama program would be such a safe haven for many of our more unconventional students. I know my daughter benefitted greatly from the drama classes she took in high school.

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