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The senior class stunned a packed crowd of parents, friends and teachers at Congregation KINS in their performance of Hamlet. Students in Ms. Goldstein’s and Mrs. Arons’s English classes divided up scenes from the Shakespeare play, interpreting how to act them out and delivering lengthy monologues from memory. The result was a charming rendition of the play, showcasing how much our students learned this past semester.

Students who had never performed in a drama production learned speaking and acting skills that will serve them throughout life, and students with acting experience had the opportunity to shine in front of their entire grade.

The classes were joined by staff from Writers Theatre, who helped students interpret and act out the play. Writers Theatre is an award-winning organization located on Chicago’s North Shore that specializes in creating Writers’ Theatre Residency Programs. The company specializes in creating customized programs and workshops for schools using academic and creative exercises to increase student enthusiasm for learning.

Each quarter, staff from the Writers Theatre works with a different grade to bring various texts the students study to life. These activities include ensemble-building activities that are creative and teach visually, interpersonally and kinesthetically. The quarter culminates with a group performance. In addition, Writers Theatre staff is working with all faculty to teach theater ideas and techniques. By pairing students and teachers with professional artists who use writing, theater and ensemble exercises enhances creativity, imagination and literacy in the classroom. Additionally, with the long academic day at the Academy and the numerous extracurricular commitments our students encounter, bringing drama to the classroom allows all students to appreciate an art that only a few would otherwise experience.

Funding for the Writers Theatre program comes from a George Shay z”l Endowment Fund, an endowment gift to an ICJA academic department from alum Scott Shay (’75). The English department won this year’s grant in order to make drama and the arts more formally part of the Academy classroom experience. Academy’s teachers annually submit a grant proposal to a committee of lay and professional leaders who select a department to receive the funding. The purpose of the endowment is to enhance the learning environment and appreciation of academic arts and sciences. The endowment is intended to foster a passion for general studies, consistent with Torah values.

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