Teaching Theater

When I first started teaching in the South Bronx in 2003, I spent most of my energy trying to keep the kids in my English class from beating each other up. Becoming a theater teacher was a total accident. My principal needed to fill a gap in the artistic schedule and happened to glimpse the theater degree on my resume. The very next day, despite never having taught a performing arts class in my life, I was out in the temporary trailer-classroom in the parking lot behind the school with a group of kids who clearly wanted nothing to do with theater—or with me.

As it turned out, the challenge of doing creative work with kids lit me up. Little by little the kids’ defensiveness and fear (and my own) gave way to trust in the creative process, each other, and ourselves. Joining forces with inspiring arts educators like Sarah Rosenberg, Lou Cardenas, Andrew Simon, Geoffrey Kiorpes and others, we have steadily expanded the program to include theater, musical theater and competitive speech. Eight years, five full length musicals, two Shakespeare workshops, one student-directed production, a case full of trophies and a handful of national speech competitions later, we’re starting to feel like we’ve got something special on our hands.

In 2010 my colleagues, students and I created the Bronx Prep Performing Arts Academy. The Academy features:

  • A rigorous performance studies program combining speech, acting and musical theater
  • Mentoring relationships that span 5th through 12th grades
  • A summer boot camp in speech and performance led by students
  • An annual middle school musical entirely directed and designed by high school students
  • An annual experimental drama conceived of and created by students
  • An annual whole-school musical with students in key leadership roles
  • Alumni returning regularly from college to coach, direct and support their peers

The program that started in 2003 with a handful of kids in a trailer now involves hundreds of students, teachers and family members every year.
 

Below you’ll find galleries of the work we’ve created together.

You can check out our student-produced Academy blog here.

And you can make a donation to the Bronx Prep Performing Arts Academy here.


 

Youth Theater Project Gallery

In the Heights, Spring 2013:

"In the Heights" is a vibrant hip-hop/salsa musical that tells the story of the changing neighborhood of Washington Heights and its residents' search for love, identity and the true meaning of "home".


Backstage
Performance

Les Misérables, Spring 2012:

Our most ambitious show to date, "Les Mis" tells interwoven stories of redemption, uprising, unrequited love and the fight for justice. Who'd have thought that kids in the South Bronx would find such poignant personal connections to an operetta set in 19th century France?


Backstage
Performance

Guys and Dolls, Spring 2011:

Guys and Dolls showcased the talents of an unprecedented number of 5th-12th grade performers. We squeezed nearly 80 students onto our tiny stage to bring this classic story of gambling and girls to life.


Backstage
Performance

Aladdin, Fall 2010:

Our first-ever Middle School musical at Bronx Prep-performed by 5th through 8th graders and entirely directed, designed and choreographed by High School students.

Performance video

Backstage
Performance

The King and I, Spring 2010:

A rich, complex classic that tackles race, culture, language, religion, bigamy, polygamy, education, slavery and anything else that happens to be lying around. Our fifth anniversary show, this production included a huge cast of younger performers and ushered in a new era of student leadership.

Performance video

Backstage
Performance

Little Shop of Horrors, Spring 2009:

Comedy, drama, romance. and a man-eating plant. This production marked the addition of puppetry to our growing list of theatrical skills.

Performance video


Backstage

Performance

The Wiz, Spring 2008:

A Motown twist on the well-known saga of Dorothy and her friends. This production featured student musicians and artists for the first time, and a huge ensemble cast!

Performance video


Backstage

Performance

Aida, Spring 2007:

The tragic tale of a Nubian princess and the Egyptian captain who wins her heart. A huge fund-raising effort made it possible for our school to buy stage lights to transform our gym into a theater space. Aida was the first production we ever performed on Bronx Prep's own stage.

Performance video


Backstage

Performance

Once On This Island, Spring 2006:

A story of colliding cultures, ill-fated love and the power of storytelling to bring people together. This was our first-ever musical, performed in a donated theater space in Soho.

Performance video


Backstage

Performance