Staged Play Prompts Free-Flow Conversations for Middle and Upper School Students
Surrounded by rows of students in folding chairs on all four sides – sort of a theater in the square configuration – Upper School actors took to the gymnasium to perform the provocative play Six Degrees of Separation for their peers in Middle and Upper School.
Just prior to the performance, theater teacher and event coordinator Charlie Alexander instructed students to listen and watch carefully in order to commence conversation about the play in the post-production aftermath.
“The purpose of the performance is to start discussions in our community about the themes of the play: socioeconomic status, race, sexual orientation, and the idea that the world is much smaller than it often appears,” explained Mr. Alexander of the undertaking, which took place during assembly time.
This is the second year that Hamden Hall has staged a production to engage students and faculty in follow-up discussion regarding subject matter introduced in a play’s script. Last year’s undertaking was The Laramie Project, also based on a true story, which elicited conversation and dialogue about prejudice and tolerance.
“I thought the performance of The Laramie Project last year was electrifying, definitely one of the highlights of the year. It got everyone talking about some important issues. I’ve been looking forward to this year's performance as well as I think it will have a similar impact,” maintained Upper School Dean of Students John Greenawalt.
Once in their break-out groups, students and faculty members discussed key topics and situations inherent in the play.
“Stereotypes, bias, and misunderstandings were portrayed and then discussed with the hope of broadening our students' perspectives,” said Academic Dean Kim Porto.
Twenty Upper School students were involved in the staged reading, which extended out beyond the blocks placed in the middle of the gym that served as the main stage. Narrators and performers also moved around beyond the rows of chairs to four different microphones strategically positioned to encase the performance area. Despite stark set design, i.e., none, the formation definitely lent itself to an up-close-and-personal experience ripe for discussion.
Costumes consisted of black T-shirts featuring the number six and the degree symbol. Mr. Alexander noted that those involved in the performance had been practicing and planning the staged reading since September.
“We enjoy at Hamden Hall a very safe and secure community. This play offers us the opportunity to engage our students and teachers in discussions that focus on the ways in which the greater world can touch our lives. Inviting that world into our safe environment can help us reflect on and make sense of events that are difficult to understand,” maintained Mr. Alexander.
Inspired by a true story, Six Degrees of Separation was written by American playwright John Guare and premiered in 1990. It was later adapted for film in 1993. The play's most famous monologue cites the well-known premise that people are separated from one another by only six other people.
Six Degrees of Separation is an opportunity for us to embrace and celebrate the challenge of living in a world with more connections and perspectives than we can count,” said Mr. Alexander.
Hamden Hall Country Day School is a nurturing and inclusive community with a dynamic learning environment that promotes academic excellence by understanding each child and fostering their individual growth.