Theatre classes watch play, musical as part of curriculum

Jude Herwitz

In a city so rich with plays and musicals, seeing real theatrical productions can make or break a theatre class, said Playwriting and Principles of Acting teacher Alexis Dahl. For this reason, she said, her class saw the play “The Wolves” Wednesday, and the History of Musical Theatre class viewed the musical “The Band’s Visit” on Tuesday.
“The Band’s Visit” follows the story of a band of Egyptian soldiers who get stranded in an Israeli village and need to spend the night before they are able to make their way to the Egyptian embassy, Vani Prasad (10) said.
Each trimester the History of Musical Theatre class sees a musical, Benjamin Posner said.
The class covers the history of musical theater, from European opera to modern musicals, and the different types of productions in each era, Prasad said. However, due to the timing of the shows, “The Band’s Visit,” as well as the show seen in the first trimester and did not coincide with what they were learning about in class, she said.
After seeing the show, the class compared it to other musicals that they had studied, Posner said.
“In the first trimester, we went to see ‘Prince of Broadway,’ a revue show featuring selections from famous musicals that were produced by Hal Prince,” said Posner. “This musical is different. It’s contemporary and unconventional.”
Posner said the “Prince of Broadway” was meant for an older audience, so it “was hard for the students to connect with.”
“The Wolves,” which the Playwriting and the Principles of Acting class saw, tells the story of a female teenage soccer team in the winter season, Eliza Bender (10) said. None of the characters have names, but instead have numbers corresponding to their numbers on the team, Dahl said.
Like “The Band’s Visit,” it does not fit in the mold of traditional theater said Dahl. “It won The Relentless Award, a really prestigious award for first time playwrights doing brave work in theater,” she said.
In the Playwriting class, most days are spent doing free writes, although throughout the year they work on various different projects, said Bender.
Principles of Acting, Dahl said, is the introductory acting class which the school offers.
“In the first trimester, they got to see a play called ‘School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play’ written by Jocelyn Bioh, and she came and spoke to our playwriting class and to other students,” she said. “The structures and styles of the two plays are very different.”
Both trips had been planned since at least the beginning of the school year, said Dahl and Posner.
While she preferred “The Band’s Visit” to the previous production the class saw, Prasad said, it did not live up to her expectations.
“Even though the actors were really good and the general premise was good,” she said, “the story moved pretty slowly.”
For “The Wolves”, judging from the class discussion, it was widely liked, Bender and Ben Rosenbaum (11) said.
“It’s important to have experience seeing live theater,” Posner said. “It is a living art form. It is very different reading a musical and even listening to a musical.”