High School Drama… Naughty or Nice?


In-School Residency student scene

Students reading scenes from Macbeth at our in-school residency at Dougherty Valley High

Marketing Intern Jessica Reinhardt sits in on her first in-school residency at Dougherty Valley High School’s drama class in San Roman, CA.

 As my second week at Cal Shakes began, I was antsy with anticipation for my first classroom residency visit. Thursday was finally here and, as I gathered my camera and notepad (feeling very official) I tried to imagine the atmosphere of a high school drama class. I automatically thought back to the ever so fond memories of my theater classes and the journey one takes from first warm-up to final performance. Everyone always seems a bit intimidated at first. (Hey, you try to articulate “If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers…” ten times fast without any mistakes!) But as soon as I got to meet these wonderful students at Dougherty Valley High in San Ramon, I knew I was right where I should be.

 Talk about being “in the moment”: They embraced what Artistic Director Trish Tillman had to teach them as soon as we walked in. Trish started with a simple exercise and encouraged students who don’t usually step out of their comfort zones to get in there and “not be afraid of the ball.” It got the whole room to loosen up and begin to get out of our shells—the ones we all sometimes find ourselves hiding in. Being open to new experiences and letting it all go in a positive, healthy way is what makes performing special, and is something that, specifically, can benefit young adults. The class asked a lot of great questions and really embraced the exercises, even as they became more complicated. Trish chose a scene from Macbeth, leading the class through an exercise demonstrating how movement and proximity changed the way the actors felt. Someone yelled out “this feels intense!,” clearly showing the differences in dynamic as one actor moved physically closer to another.

 As these realizations and connections happened before my eyes, I stumbled around trying to get good photos of it all (let’s just say my picture taking skills aren’t exactly … professional). Out of all these moments I attempted to capture, the one that really sticks out were two students in the background looking really involved in the text. It just showed me how much Shakespeare can relate to us regardless of age, education, or status in our society. The kids really got a feel for the text and as Trish said making conceptual connections through the text improves students skills.

There were a lot of amazing, genuine surprises that I was fortunate enough to experience today. And isn’t that what theater is all about?

 To support student achievement and teacher professional development, Cal Shakes Classroom Residencies bring teaching artists into the schools with the aim of developing students’ minds, imaginations, and voices.