By Roberto Clemente Community Academy staff
The freshmen experienced an amazing, fun-filled day while they were on a field trip to the American Theater Company for the technical rehearsal of their original class play. For the past six weeks, every freshman has participated in a theater unit focusing on a play called The Royale by Marco Ramirez. The play is based on the life of Jack Johnson, a boxer who overcame racism, poverty, and many obstacles. His goal was to become the first African American Heavyweight boxing champion of the world, and he achieved it!
All students learned elements of drama, costumes, sound, lighting, and acting. Students were then able to choose if they wanted to work on the production crew or the performance ensemble. This was the first theater experience for many of the freshmen. “It was really nice,” said Tony Powers, “We all came together to produce a play and everyone took it really seriously.” Tony played the character Fish, who was a sparring partner for the main character named Jay. Tony practiced his boxing moves and learned how to act on stage. Jose Cedeno was cast as the heavyweight boxing champion and said, “We worked together and helped each other.”
After reading the play, professional actors from the American Theater Company came to Clemente to work with students to create and produce The Royale. Although students were nervous and reluctant to act, they overcame their challenges and produced an impressive play. The students in the production group encouraged and supported the actors by helping them memorize lines and providing positive feedback and suggestions for improvement. Students not only learned about aspects of theater, but they also experienced many of the learner profile characteristics. Some freshman students identified that this was the first time they were a “risk taker” in an academic setting. “I like how we were able to compare the similarities and differences between the classes,” said Genesi Santos. Santos was the stage manager for the entire play. She added that “it was challenging trying to help the actors learn the right words for each line, but we saw students’ abilities that they didn’t even realize they had.”
After the final performance, the students will attend another field trip to see the professional version of The Royale and get a chance to meet and talk to the actors after the performance. In addition, all Clemente students are invited to participate in an after-school theater program called “Bridge.” Students in the program will write an original skit and perform it with other Chicago Public School students. Stay tuned for more details!