The Art of Theater

By Matt Kator, Theater Department Chair

Well-respected arts educator Kelly Pollack said it best: “The true purpose of arts education is not necessarily to create more professional dancers or artists. [It’s] to create more complete human beings who are critical thinkers, who have curious minds, who can lead productive lives.”  

It’s an exciting time in the Theater Department at Tower Hill. Through improv, movement, public speaking, story telling, construction, painting and a whole host of other disciplines, we continue to borrow from many to create something new. Be it in the classroom or after school in rehearsal, the students, through the art of theater, continue to develop skills they will carry with them forever.

This year marks the first year theater classes were rostered as a special in all grade levels, kindergarten through eighth grade. Through performance- and non-performance-based curriculum, the theater faculty work to enhance students’ artistic and academic experiences at Tower Hill. Each grade level curriculum is structured to highlight and aid in the development of the students’ confidence and creativity. As Science Department Chair Tim Weymouth said in last month’s Weathervane, “After all, aren’t we all practicing learners, forever moving toward mastery?” And so as a theater faculty we continue to question: Is improv better in sixth or seventh grade? When does public-speaking class best serve to help create confidence where there used to be anxiety? Would Coach Kevin Waesco and Athletic Director Seth Kushkin embrace the football team taking dance classes like players do in the NFL?

After a very well received production of Neil Simon’s Rumors and the first of three Lower School Town Meetings in the fall, 2019 started off with a “splash of color.” For the third time at Tower Hill, A Gift of Color was performed by Lower School students. Written by Sara Bush, this year’s production was performed by the fourth graders as their annual musical.

Two weeks later, the eighth grade participated in its annual eighth grade show. This year we discovered How the Eighth Grade Saved ... YouTube! The eighth grade show, a tradition lasting more than 25 years, was re-imagined to mimic the style of the Upper School Tower Term. An intensive week of rehearsal, dancing, prop and costume-making, sound effect hunting and a lot of smiles and laughter culminated in a performance that was enjoyed by the audience. Better still, it was a process that was adored by both the Class of 2023 and theater faculty.

Later, we saw the culmination of our collaboration with the English Department: Fifth grade’s Fractured Fairy Tales. A favorite of ours, this unit combines playwriting and performance. Students get the opportunity to see firsthand how a good story may not make a good play and why some tricks that work on television just can’t work on a stage.

We rounded out the year with two more Town Meetings, third grade’s “Tower Will” performing Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and, of course, our all-school musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Featuring a cast ranging in age from second grade to faculty, a pit made up entirely of students and their teachers, and sets and lights designed by two seniors, Joseph highlighted the many different (and hidden) talents of our students and faculty.

Tower Hill is lucky to have continued support for theater from the administration, the board and the faculty, and especially from the students. In a time when the arts are consistently being cut, we are experiencing positive momentum where students see the value of their arts education and embrace the experiences and skills it brings. We hope to be able to entertain you soon!

Matt Kator
Theater Department Chair

This article appeared in Tower Hill’s Weathervane e-newsletter on March 8, 2019.