The Theater program at Crossroads, while always very strong in reputation and talent, increasingly provides students the opportunity to apply their talent in ways that go well beyond performance.
In fact, many students have so much skill behind the curtain that they are taking on leadership roles and autonomy in areas such as playwriting, directing, costume design, lighting design, and sound tech.
For theater teacher Deb Mein, it was a confluence of things coming together. Students were increasingly working outside of school on the technical aspects of theater, with junior Jena Denney interning in the sound booth for the Muny and senior Camden Breckenridge building Victorian-era costumes in their spare time.
“Students are hungry for this experience,” adds Deb. “I think Crossroads deserves to have a program where students are the driving voice. We are fortunate to have all of these gifted students in our program.”
In elective courses such as Directing and Acting Methods, students are given the opportunity to hone their craft with content often taught at college and even graduate-level coursework.
In Acting Methods, students are learning different methods and performing select theater monologues, but they are also learning how to coach each other on a given acting method. “I borrowed one of their assignments from my own experience in graduate school to view an acting method from the perspective of a coach,” Deb adds. They are assigned a specific method from coaches such as Uta Hagen, Suzuki, and Meisner, and then are asked to teach their classmates the method.
Students’ creativity, autonomy, and leadership were on full display for this year’s Winter One Acts. In a change from past years, students wrote original works for each of the plays and produced, cast, and directed the works.
“I saw this as an opportunity to really challenge the students,” Deb said. “We have talented writers who already had ideas percolating; the plays were funny, touching, and impressive.” One Acts were written by junior Max Blatter, senior Gavin Griffiths-Hill, sophomore Marin Mackey, and junior Erin Ryan.
Students bring so much passion to their work, they can often be found putting in additional hours and volunteering to support productions. “I was in the Black Box and David Truman came in to hang lights during his lunch period, volunteering to create the lighting design not only for Winter One Acts but for the Directing class and the Middle School’s Alice in Wonderland performance.
“Their desire, hunger, and volunteerism is unmatched,” adds Deb.