Learning the ropes?
Students at The Ethical Community School to present three plays
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Nov 12, 2017 | 2637 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THOUGHTFUL PERFORMANCES – Many of the students involved in upcoming plays at The Ethical Community School got a lot more out of it than just fun, learning things about life as well as acting.
THOUGHTFUL PERFORMANCES – Many of the students involved in upcoming plays at The Ethical Community School got a lot more out of it than just fun, learning things about life as well as acting.
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Robin Lester, a parent of two kids attending Ethical Community School in Jersey City, isn’t an expert on stage craft, but he knows how to construct things. So as one of the many parents that get involved in various projects at the school, it is only natural that he would be the one to construct the sets for the upcoming theatrical performances to be put on at the school.

“They knew I worked on oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico as a deep sea drive and so knew how to build things,” he said, climbing down from the frame work of what will become a volcano. “I did work on the spring show.”

Lester said he came back east because he missed New York, and moved to Jersey City because Jersey City resembled the New York he remembered growing up.

“I have a daughter in the sixth grade and a son in the fourth grade,” he said, and like many parents his involvement is a way of giving back. And his job this time is to construct three sets for the upcoming plays that include a castle, a cave, and a volcano – which will also be flipped around to make a county fair tent.

He’s still working on how to make the lava flow and how to safely make the volcano erupt, though everything will be in place by the time students take the stage on Nov. 15.

The Ethical Community Charter School’s (TECCS) Performing Arts program has teamed up with the Speranza Theater Company to present “The Once Act Play Series” features two one-act plays created by the students and a presentation of Charlotte’s Web in one act based on the book by E. B. White.

Charlotte’s Web is one of several children’s stories written by E.B. White, a legendary writer for The New Yorker magazine, and considered among the greatest American essay writers.

“Our school has never had a program like this,” said Kim Correro, who serves as arts director, another parent who volunteers for programs at the school. “Our Performing Arts Team of volunteer parents, together with the Family School Association, is launching this initiative to support TECCS in nurturing the creativity and imaginations of our students.”

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“I expected to the spider to be scary. Charlotte has a very kind heart. She gives love and real help.” – Billie Joe

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Getting kids involved

The production mostly about kids, who have taken on more than just the acting aspects. As many as 90 students tried out for parts and other jobs connected the show, 60 of which are involved in every aspect of theater from performance to behind the scenes such aspects. Students from grades 2 to 8 take part either as a performer or on the backstage crew filling the roles of assistant director, stage manager, set design, costumes, makeup and public relations.

Rehearsals and play production happen after school hours, and involve students from 2nd to the 7th grades. Student apprentices do sound, light, make up. One sixth grade student – Ines – has learned the fine art of public relations, interviewing actors for a news letter, and putting out publicity for the show.

This program is a partner up with Heather Wahl of Speranza Theater Company and professional playwrights Laura Rohrman and Nick Radu.

The performance is also a fundraiser to help continue the performing arts programs at the school – which has been established through grants.

As with most of the activities at the school which involve parents volunteering time and energy, often after work, this performance has parents such as Lester involved.

Many students working back stage along with parents and the funds raised when the show is put on will help allow kids to continue in the program for free.

TECCS, a charter school located on Broadway in Jersey City, is one of the most diverse schools in the most diverse city in the nation.

“It was established with a mission to teach ethical education,” said TECCS Principal Marta Bergamini.

TECCS is a Kindergarten through 8th grade school that currently has a student enrollment of 377.

For many students, this is their first theater experience at the school, and this is part of the reason the school hopes to raise enough money to allow the program to continue free of charge to students.

The performing arts team is being launched by volunteer parents and the Family School Association with the hopes of nurturing the creativity and imaginations of the students.

The students are doing their own media campaign for it on Facebook. There is a student journalist in 6th grade conducting all the interviews and the kids in the cast and on the crew are speaking about why this new performing arts program at TECCS is so important and matters so much to them

Love of theater inspires some of the students.

Stevie (grade 7) in one of the productions plays a business man taking “a relaxing vacation.”

“I’ll be wearing a suit, but nothing too formal,” he said.

He said he was involved with Speranza Theater Company during a summer camp.

“This is run by some of the same people,” he said.

While he is tentatively considering a career involving technology, he said the play performance fascinates him, how the story evolves and what happens to the characters.

Louis (grade 7) plays an under cover FBI agent, trying to find a jewel thief, and more importantly, the mysterious crime boss – part of the mystery that must be solved by the play’s end.

He said he also attended the same summer camp.

“I worked with Nick, who is directing the play,” he said, enjoying the interchange between actor and director he gets.

“It’s kind of tough being an actor,” he said. “But I enjoy doing it.”

Ishaan (grade 7) plays the jewel thief and so becomes part of the cloak and dagger experience such mysteries deal with.

He said he is intrigued by the art or theater, and used to take theater classes.

“I would like to make my own play,” he said, though he still hasn’t made up his mind about a career. He might become a designer.

He said it is not easy being an actor, but it’s fun.

Holnoway, (grade 4) plays the bad rat in Charlotte’s Web.

The city rat is a bad rat she said, and to play it, she draws on not nice part of herself.

“Sometimes, I can be nice,” she said.

She got her taste for performance when she took part in the school’s talent show last year.

“I’m really into acting she said, and dance, and I like expressing myself through body motion.

She sees herself as becoming an actor or an author some day.

Billie Joe, in the sixth grade, plays the title character, the spider Charlotte, and was surprised by the character.

“I expected to the spider to be scary,” she said. “Charlotte has a very kind heart. She gives love and real help. She has had a full life and wants Wilbur to have a full life, too.”

This is a story of Wilbur the peg and his friendship with Fern Arable, the littler girl who adopts him, and some barnyard friends – in particular Charlotte the spider. The story opens with the birth of Wilbur, a runt of the litter who through the help of his friends overcomes his disability.

Charlotte is extremely moving story, and when asked if she cries when she plays the part.

“I cry just reading the script,” she said.

She is contemplating a career as an actor or a therapist.

Ines (6th grade) is the publicist and journalist.

Although she originally wanted to play a role in one of the plays, she took the job in public relations because she found it interesting and that she learned a lot. As the press person, she got to interview each of the actors, and learned a lot about them.

She’s not sure what she kind of career she would like to pursue, “Maybe a farmer,” she said.

Nariya (grade 4) plays a kid at the beginning of one play, a witch in the middle, and then a kid again. She said she was in the talent show at school, and did some plays, including the Wizard of Oz.

Tickets for the “One Act Play Series” are on sale now via Brown Paper Tickets at: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3119861.

The first 50 adult tickets (to each performance) are $10, subsequent tickets price will be $15. The first 75 children up to age 14 will be admitted free to each performance, with advance Brown Paper Ticket only. Tickets can be picked up at "Will Call". Door tickets will be $15/adults, $2/children. Cash only.

Show times are Wednesday, Nov.15 at 7 p.m. then twice again on Saturday, Nov. 18 at 11 a.m. and again at 3 p.m.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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