The Rumson Country Day School auditorium often resembles the theaters of Ancient Greece, which brought together elements of music, myth, and literature. That’s because nearly every Friday during the school year, students tell a story from the stage through a fully produced play. On Friday November 11, the theatrical history of the Greek’s inspired RCDS fourth graders to act out a sampling of popular myths like King Midas, Pandora's Box, and the Trojan Horse. However, they added a unique twist. Unlike a typical production, students were challenged to perform without the use of sets, props, sound effects, and costumes.
“We had to really set the scene,” said fourth grader Reegan Lacey. “We would just work together to try to come up with ideas and everyone would share them. We had to use our bodies to create things. Everyone spread out doing different things with their bodies to make a maze. Another time we had to make a jail. We made wings with our arms…that kind of thing.”
Even though the students were donned in all white against a blank set, they used their imagination, facial expressions, and enthusiastic gestures to help the audience visualize Greek garments, architecture, and props.
“Students had a vested interest in this play in particular because they had to take ownership of creating something out of nothing,” said Drama Teacher Anthony Greco. “Putting themselves out there can be a very vulnerable experience, but now they have this confidence boost moving forward and a fresh perspective on taking risks and trying something new. The process was truly collaborative and creative. That's what made it so special.”
Class plays give RCDS educators a creative outlet to reinforce classroom material and make learning fun. From beginners (kindergarten) through grade four, each class participates in an annual production.
The content of the plays typically connects to the curriculum to make the overall learning experience more enriching for students and is an intentional choice made in collaboration between classroom teachers and the performing arts department. In this instance, students translated the material they were studying in their Greek Mythology unit into a slightly modern way to demonstrate how stories from thousands of years ago are still relevant today. Through the process they gained a better understanding of the content and were given the opportunity to share what they learned with their peers and parents in the audience. In the past, fourth grade productions have also drawn connections from their studies of the American Revolution and classic fairytales in literature.
In addition to reinforcing academic content, RCDS plays instill life lessons and skills like problem-solving, teamwork, and public speaking that will last students a lifetime.
“Not everyone has to be a performer later in life,” said Mr. Greco. “But hopefully everyone can leave RCDS and have an appreciation for the arts and find room for it in their own lives. Through the message of plays, students are quite literally teaching morals and lessons and learning how they can apply that in their own lives. I think that's the constant giving of what we do. It provides entertainment yes, but it also leaves a lasting educational impact.”