It all began in April of 2010. I had been sitting on a Holocaust play I'd wanted to do for years about the experiences of Auschwitz survivor, Charlotte Delbo. I knew the intensity of that play required a special group of young women who could step outside their own lives and enter that dark place. I knew I had that group of girls. I enlisted the help of a friend I've known all my life who loved drama and had the time to help me work with these young women.
The personal transformation of each girl was incredible. They learned to put aside who they were and empathize with their character in a way that released them to show feelings few teenagers have ever considered or felt. What began with a strong sense of awkwardness and discomfort for each actor ended with real onstage tears and a genuine sense of all consuming agony. We worked extremely hard, even incorporating rhytmic choreography, settling for nothing less than perfection. The play was presented seven times, including presentations for other schools, the community, and at another location. After the first performance we were told that we needed to scatter boxes of Kleenex in the seats, which we did.There were seldom dry eyes in the audience; even many of the men shed tears This wonderful group of hardworking young women felt a burden to tell Delbo's story in a manner that both educated their audience and dared the audience to imagine --to see.
The personal growth I witnessed within this group of girls convinced me that our gifted students truly need experiences in drama within the G.T. setting. They need to develop the ability to speak confidently before a crowd, they need the opportunity to problem solve when it really matters, they need a chance to use creativity for a real purpose, they need to view criticism as a valuable tool, they need the personal satisfaction of giving of themselves to an audience, and they need the joy that comes from working, working, working to achieve something truly outstanding, something memorable,
To those who say, "What's high school drama for? Can't they achieve those outcomes there?" I would answer, "Do our gifted secondary students have the luxury of even taking those classes?" The requirements for graduation and the demands of AP coursework rob them of the time to experience drama and other classes that are not purely academic. After that play, one of the young women decided to apply for Governor's School with a concentration in Drama, submitting a video from the performance.
As a result of that April 2010 experience, I have since involved all my students in grades 2-12 in some type of theater-based project during the year. In my 24 years of working with G.T. students I have found absolutely nothing that begins to achieve for the gifted student what creating a theater presentation from beginning to end achieves --more importantly, it brings students, parents, the community, and the school together, creating a synergetic bond that makes us more than we were before.