Tag Archives: performing arts

Modern Acting and Theatre teaches the profession of acting

By Joshua Rivera

Staff Writer

Modern Acting and Theatre is a different experience compared to the introductory drama course. The advanced course teaches students the techniques and emotions of acting: it’s a college-level course meant to prepare students for the acting world. Ran by the production company Estronemicas, the drama course is a chance for aspiring actors to show the experience they have.

Ron Johnson, a professional actor and teacher of the advanced drama course said, “I wanted to do a theatre class with a twist, because Expeditions is supposed to be about giving students experiences that they’d get should they chose to move into a profession, but without having to actually, definitely make the choice.”

Tahoma senior Sydney Martinez, who has been with the course for four years, said, “We learned how to make our own acting resume and be able to find ways to make a career out of the things we learned in the class. Over time that stuff grows and becomes more complex.”

See below for a video about the Modern Acting and Theatre course:

Featured image (at the top of this post): The Modern Acting and Theatre class rehearses for their end-of-year performance. PHOTO CREDIT: Joshua Rivera

Tahoma students explore new talents in Stage Combat class

By Omar El-Bandrawy and Caden Vu

Staff Writers

Stage Combat is a performing arts class that allows students to step out of their comfort zone with the respect of their peers and their teacher. This class teaches students about how fight scenes in movies and plays are done without endangering actors, but this isn’t the only aspect of the course. Stage Combat provides detailed insight into history’s most profound playwrights and techniques used on stage for plays. Some figures mentioned in the course are Shakespeare and Augusto Boal; the course also covers European sword fighting techniques.

“I designed my theater class to be a chance for people to try something new. It’s really rare for people to one, try to do any gymnastics and be upside down or try stage combat and to actually act out a fight scene … but it’s also a chance for people to be uncomfortable. There are people that are like, ‘Oh, I’ve never done this before, I’ve never been in front of a crowd learning how to present. Learning how to step out of your comfort zone and try something new,” Stage Combat teacher Keith Brown explained.

Tahoma sophomore Herschel Marcelo said the classroom culture helps achieve the course goal of pushing students out of their comfort zone: “This classroom is a very open-minded environment that is very suited to the way I learn. The teacher creates a very supportive learning environment where my peers won’t judge me for trying new things.”

See below for a video about the Stage Combat course:

Denali lacks performing arts opportunities

By Jacob Jasper, Kyle Kobetsky and Evangeline Si

Staff Writers

Performing arts is a form of creative expression, most typically performed in front of a live audience. Participating in performing arts gives young students a creative outlet that also benefits their personal and academic well being, even through casual exposure. However, high school students at Denali have found that the opportunities in performing arts offered are inadequate, especially compared to the programs available at the middle school campus.

Performing arts programs can potentially improve focus and discipline, develop critical thinking and decision-making skills and improve memory and concentration. These programs also promote the development of social skills for many students. Programs involving performing arts in education provide students with opportunities to engage their body, mind and emotions, exploring themes and ideas about humanity.

“There is a lot of different classes kids can go to, and a lot of them are a lot different than what kids normally do – for example, Stage Combat … It’s definitely a start if you want to pursue a career in that field, but it’s not the highest quality,” Charles Cassel, a Denali freshman, commented regarding the performing arts opportunities offered by Denali.

Stage Combat is one of the only ways that Denali students interact with the performing arts. Stage Combat is a course where students learn about fight choreography and the illusion of real physical contact, weapon techniques and how performing arts addresses oppression.

In the first round of Expeditions, students learned how to choreograph unique fight scenes. In the second round, they learned longsword techniques to practice fight scenes with weaponry. Students in the third round will act out a story where the audience will participate, furthering both the actors’ and the audience’s critical thinking and prompt decision-making skills.

“One critique is that Summit Denali is very STEM-focused, so sometimes some of the other subjects cannot get focus. I see that in how the other Expeditions courses cannot offer a visual or performing arts credit. Performing arts gives students a place to express themselves that they don’t normally get to do,” Keith Brown, the Stage Combat teacher, said regarding Denali’s prioritization of science, technology, engineering and math compared to their focus, or lack thereof, on the arts.  

Mr. Brown elaborated, “I built this curriculum specifically to give as many opportunities as I can to try something new and teach to the students all these different ways to express themselves that are outside of the norm.”

Students involved in the Stage Combat class are given a new perspective on the more thoughtful, purposeful side of performing arts, as well as being given a creative outlet. However, as the class is the only performing arts focused class offered to students, those not enrolled will miss the creative expression offered by Mr. Brown’s curriculum.

The theater program was another way students at Denali were exposed to performing arts. When the high school changed campuses, it wasn’t feasible for the program to stay available for high schoolers. High school students who had participated in the Denali theater program felt that the change affected their relationship with the middle school and their ties to the rest of the Summit Denali community.

Those involved in the theater program at Denali also sponsored an improv class to prepare actors. The campus change also meant the loss of the improv program, which helped promote quick decision-making and build connections with other actors.

“It will allow the students who enjoy the performing arts to express themselves through the art of theater! But it’s also a way to gain more community and, whenever I do shows, you always get really close with the people in the cast and that will make the campus more connected,” Denali sophomore Emma Smith explained.

For many students involved in performing arts, it is a way for them to express themselves and make community ties. As Denali does not offer performing arts extracurricular opportunities at the high school, there is simply no other way to expose students at Denali to performing arts and all of its benefits besides their Expeditions courses. According to students and teachers, Denali’s lack of opportunities for performing arts exposure or involvement does not benefit students or the Denali community.

See below for a video about the performing arts at Denali:

Denali needs more art opportunities

By Angela Hwang, Hazel Rothrock and Nadia Tatischeva
Staff Writers

When you walk down the hall at Summit Denali High School, you see blank walls, with maybe one or two posters advertising the middle school play and a couple bulletin boards dedicated to sports and clubs. There’s a clear lack of art on the walls. There also aren’t any posters advertising a high school play, because there isn’t one. In fact, there seems to be a general lack of attention to arts at Denali.

The arts, both visual and performing, are amazing ways to build strong relationships and a deep sense of community within a school. They also function as a way for people to express themselves and bring attention to the problems long overlooked in schools and society, such as prejudice and unjust violence, among many others.

Teachers and students at Denali all agree Denali needs more. More visual arts. More drama. More opportunities for students to create.

But why can’t schools just put everything into sports and call it a day? What’s the difference? According to Mathew Scicluna, the Visual Arts teacher at Denali, art was the first way he found to express himself as an individual as opposed to “a team in a sport or … as a student in a class.”

Mr. Scicluna went on to say that the culture people come from and the community they live in both affect the kind of pieces they create.

Keith Brown, the Stage Combat teacher, agreed, saying: “(Art) really teaches a person about their soul. Any kind of art is what reminds people what being human is like.”

Skyler Sauer, a Denali freshman, explained that “[Performing arts] has helped me make a lot of friends. I did a show in middle school and that helped build community.”

Introducing more arts into the Denali community might lead to the question of what responsibility artists have to their community. That’s where things get interesting. Kalyn Olson, the former Visual Arts teacher and current Expeditions dean at Denali, said, “I think [the responsibility is] to highlight and amplify the voices that don’t [get] heard either on television or on the media and so, if art can do that, and fulfill that responsibility to the community of making sure everyone feels valid and heard, then I think we’ve done our job.”

Mr. Brown agreed: “I know that once [the drama program] gets more established and there’s more chances for students to actually take drama classes, they’ll be able to address some of the things they see … In one of my other schools, I specifically saw students make a play about the way that bullies work at their school.”

Mr. Scicluna, on the other hand, is of another mind: “I feel like artists don’t have any responsibility to their community, but they should want to have a responsibility to their community,” he said. “Because artists are the storytellers of society, so they’re the ones who gets to say things that are a little bit awkward or uncomfortable.”

Allowing more time and space for art at Denali will allow students to take on more of a responsibility for their community and enable them to make an impact on their school community. The arts are a way for relationships to be built and for people to convey their emotions and bring attention to the problems in a community. In fact, according to PBS, the arts benefit children by helping to develop motor skills, language(s), decision making, visual learning, inventiveness and cultural awareness, as well as by improving academic performance, all essential skills to cultivate in order to be successful in life.

See below for a video about arts at Denali: 


Performing Arts teach us humanity

By Evelyn Archibald

Staff Writer

“The most important thing any kind of arts can teach,” Stage Combat and College Readiness instructor Keith Brown says, “is what teaches us humanity.”

Stage Combat, an acting class focusing on combat and physical communication on stage, is the only performing arts class currently offered at Summit Shasta, but maybe that should change.

While, as Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times writes about, teaching the arts does not by association improve scores or grades in other subjects, that’s not all that’s important. “Science without humanity is just experimentation, in my opinion. Math without humanity is just numbers with nothing behind it,” Mr. Brown says.


Stage Combat students stage a fight scene. PHOTO CREDIT: Evelyn Archibald

“We’re learning about humankind. […] you’re seeing emotions, you’re seeing situations.”

Summit schools like Shasta try to build community advocates and leaders with skills like compassion, self and social awareness, resilience and identity. Performing fosters these skills intensely: learning to know and be comfortable in your own body, looking inside yourself and your emotions, working with others as one unit, taking constructive feedback, advocating for yourself and being confident in your talents.

“I think more than anything else, seeing the willingness to put themselves in uncomfortable conversations, […] talking about ways that you can feel like something is holding you back or putting you down, it can be really hard to have that kind of conversation and be honest,” Mr. Brown said on the growth he’s witnessed in his students. “It can be really hard to be in front of a crowd and speak with any kind of confidence or authority. One of the biggest changes I’ve seen is seeing that confidence come out of people, and the joy that can come from finding your voice.”


Stage Combat teacher Keith Brown PHOTO CREDIT: Evelyn Archibald

Benefits of the arts in education have been studied and witnessed many times, even finding motivation to stay in school might be linked to art and music classes. But how easy is it to just add curriculum?

Lucretia Witte, dean of Expeditions for Summit Schools, explains how the Expeditions process works: “To sum it up, there are about six departments: STEM, Arts and Design, Business and Media, Health and Fitness, Future Planning and Leadership and Society. We try to have at least two options for each of those departments, and we survey students to find out what they would be interested in.” She went on to explain the staffing process: “To find staff, we don’t hire for a specific course title, just someone who is passionate about working with us, and who would be doing what they love. We also try to keep staff in a local job; so, for example, if someone lives in San Francisco and wants to teach in Health and Fitness, we would try to put them in one of our Northern schools.”


Dean of Expeditions Lucretia Witte PHOTO CREDIT: Evelyn Archibald

“It can be harder to find folks who are very talented and also passionate about the job,” Ms. Witte said about performing arts teachers, and that makes sense. With arts classes commonly being the first to get cut when budgets are tight, and as only 10 percent of art graduates become working artists, and only 16.8 percent of working artists are educators, it’s not a surprise that passionate drama or music teachers can be hard to find. Especially when you want local teachers in the community, like Summit schools strive to hire. However, Ms. Witte said the Expeditions team is trying to hire teachers for classes like Dance or Music in the Northern schools like Shasta, which could open up many opportunities for Shasta students to pursue the performing arts.

Another matter to consider is after-school programs, such as a play or musical, a dance company, chorus or marching band, choir, and others. Lots of schools offer these types of programs, but at Shasta, the way these get started is a little different.


Dean of Culture and Instruction at Summit Shasta Adelaide Giornelli PHOTO CREDIT: Evelyn Archibald

“It’s a question of budget, and it’s also a question of who would run it,” Adelaide Giornelli, Shasta dean of culture and instruction, said. “Right now, all of our clubs are student-organized, student-advocated-for, and student-led. So if a student wanted to start a musical theater company or a choir, or an a capella group – which we actually have had in the past – the student would then have to fill out a proposal for a club, get approval, and then we would be able to provide supports as we could.”

See below for a video about the Stage Combat class: