There’s no shortage of artistic talent among Chicago Public Schools students.
Most recently, students participated in Regional Arts Day on January 31. The day began with free drama, dance and visual arts workshops for students and culminated with performances by the Concert Band, Chorus, Jazz Band, Orchestra, Dance and Theatre ensembles at Schurz, Marshall Metropolitan and Curie Metropolitan high schools.
“It’s a daylong celebration of the arts,” said Evan Plummer, Director of Arts Education at CPS. “This year, we added the visual arts workshops into the repertoire, which increased the ability for our students to engage in all arts disciplines.”
Earlier in the month, Senn High School performed Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses at the 40th Annual Illinois High School Theatre Fest. The school’s adaptation of the Chicago-centric play was featured among 25 productions.
“It was a tremendous experience,” said Joel Ewing, lead theater teacher at Senn High School. “We took the production there the previous year as well, so to be selected not once, but twice to represent not only our school, but CPS in general at the festival was a huge honor.”
This year’s festival took place at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and included more than 4,000 students, teachers and volunteers.
“It was a great opportunity for the students to showcase their work to peers from all over the state,” said Ewing, who co-directed the play with Lookingglass Theatre teaching artist Mechelle Moe. “It was great validation of all the hard work they put in. We were really excited to show the rest of the state what CPS can do and what our school and program can do.”
Senn students weren’t the only ones representing CPS at statewide festivals.
Students from Lane Tech and Whitney Young were recently selected as finalists for the Pegasus Theatre’s 28th Annual Young Playwrights Festival at Chicago Dramatists, which featured four one-act plays written by high school students and produced by professional directors and actors. The festival took place January 1-31.
Whitney Young’s Deja J., wrote A Matter of Life (And Maybe Death), a play about a seriously ill teen who meets a mysterious stranger in the hospital, while Taylor Vazquez, who graduated from Lane Tech last year, wrote Dirty Spoons, a spoof of competitive cooking shows. Both plays were directed by Ilesa Duncan, producing artistic director for Pegasus.
“I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with reality TV,” admitted Vazquez, who is currently a freshman at the University of Illinois in Springfield. “It’s so entertaining to me; it’s so fake, but I can’t stop watching.”
The play features parodies of famous food personalities such as Paula Deen, Gordon Ramsay and Rachael Ray.
“I saw it opening night and it was really special,” said Vazquez. “It blew me away. I couldn’t believe that was my work on stage.”
Vazquez crafted Dirty Spoons with the help of Lane Tech English teacher Brian Telles, who brings professional playwrights into his classroom to help guide student writing.
“It’s a vehicle for creative thinking,” he said. “With the arts, your heart and mind are working together and it’s the aesthetic of it. And that’s with any of the arts – you’re not just learning facts or skills, you’re applying the skills and loving what you’re doing. It’s yours.”