The performing arts have a significant presence in Rashi’s curriculum. Starting with Kindergarten and continuing through Grade 8, students learn performance techniques that help build confidence, presentation skills, and teamwork. There are grade-level plays and performances, with full-length, cross-divisional productions held in both fall and spring, as well as opportunities for extracurricular theater electives. Shows such as The Wizard of Oz, Dr. Dolittle, and Stone Soup have been performed for the community by our talented students in years past. This November, Middle School students wowed everyone with A Wrinkle in Time.
Students learn all facets of theater productions guided by veteran Rashi Theater Director Bonny Goldberg. Acting exercises and tongue twisters help children prepare for the stage; they learn how to project their voices, portray emotion, and build character. And they will learn the visual and technical aspects of the performing arts, such as costume design, set design, light and sound, and hair and makeup.
“We learned about stage makeup in our workshop! We learned the essential, basic skills and variants of makeup to use when performing, like having darker makeup than you would usually wear due to the bright, white lights hitting your face, washing out your features….It was a fun experience for everyone.” – Oliver L, Grade 8.
Students collaborate with Technical Director Mike Finke on production design. Many Middle School students participate in both acting and production design, maybe doing one for a semester, then switching to the other the next. The electives “Props and Costumes” and “Technical Theater Design” focus on pulling all the visuals together. Students identified the costume, prop, and scenery pieces needed for the show, then began their design thinking process by talking to the Directors (their clients) to understand the vision. They conducted research using the script and the internet to learn about the aesthetic of the 80’s, during which A Wrinkle in Time is set.
In the Lower School, students work on individual class plays to perform for the Rashi community. This month, parents watched Grade 1’s adaptation of Jan Brett’s The Mitten, an Eastern European Folktale about a group of forest animals that make a home out of a mitten on a cold, snowy day. The Grade 1 play is the first opportunity in a child’s Rashi career to say solo lines on stage.
Each cast member performed wonderfully, using clear, loud voices to recite their lines—in both English and Hebrew. The other Lower School grades were in the audience, as well as family members enjoying their morning show. The acting, costumes, and special effects (particularly a “snow” machine) grabbed the audience, leaving our whole community exclaiming, “Whoa! That’s so cool, did you see that?”
To help the fall semester come to a close with a bang of talent and color, the Lower School After School drama club performed Rainbow Fish. For many of its participants, this was their first time acting in major roles in a Rashi production. Students poured their hearts into their acting, skillfully capturing the emotional ups and downs of the Rainbow Fish story. Throughout the show, the actor playing Rainbow Fish himself switched a total of six times, provoking a heap of audience excitement, especially from Rashi’s youngest community members. Some children were, quite literally, on the edges of their seats.
As with A Wrinkle in Time and The Mitten, the sets were impressively designed. Large floor-to-ceiling kelp pieces stood around the stage, creating a dreamy, ocean-like atmosphere for the actors to interact with. The costumes were also a thing to behold, displaying striking colors and creative solutions to transform a cast of Grade 3-5 students into sea creatures.
For every student, their participation in the performing arts helps them find their footing as confident, collaborative learners. Whether they remain in theater productions or move on to other areas of interest, the public speaking, time management, teamwork and leadership skills they foster will stay with them throughout their Rashi careers and beyond.