Building Community Through Theater

Building Community Through Theater

By Steve Mintz, Middle School Science and Co-Producer of "67 Cinderellas"

Each year, around Mid-Winter Break, the seventh and eighth grade students feel a little added pressure – They are only a few weeks away from the public performances of our play.

Way back in October, students were surveyed to determine where their interests lay – on stage or off. Usually, about half the group wants to be on stage, while the others want to work off-stage as stage managers, documentary film-makers, painters, builders, designers, sound and light technicians and more. The actors audition. The director casts the show, and then the hard work begins.

For three months, under the guidance of a core group of dedicated faculty, students learn lines, block scenes, design set pieces, paint back-drops, organize costumes. They also develop real-life skills, ranging from the poise it takes to stand in front of 300 people and deliver a monologue, to independently handling a radial-arm miter saw to cut the lumber needed to complete construction on a ten-foot tall set piece.

Each production is unique and each production is incredibly rewarding, yet exhausting for both the students and faculty involved. Lily G. and Eliah F. are two of our stage managers this year. At our Monday and Wednesday afternoon rehearsals, Lily – who is becoming really adept at organizing – makes sure that each team is on schedule and fulfilling on their elements of the production. Eliah – who has an exceptional eye for design and is a terrific actor too – uses his artistic skills to create additional marketing materials, while also tracking voluminous director’s notes for each actor.

This year, the play is a farce – taking the traditional Cinderella fairy tale and poking hilariously obvious holes in a story that reduces real relationships to a chance encounter at a dance and if the shoe fits. Our director and assistant director, Anthony and Haley Sisler-Neuman, are theatrical professionals who act, direct, and run their own company, “Graceful Monsters Educational Theatre Collective," teaching children not only about theater, but about themselves and the possibilities that each of them possess.

Ultimately, when it’s time to dim the lights, adjust the scenery, turn on the mics and take the stage, all the hard work comes to fruition. The actors act. The audience laughs. The crew experiences the deep satisfaction of seeing their hard work make a difference, and the entire community comes together for a couple of hours of entertainment, provocation, escapism and nachas – (the Yiddish term for the joyful pride) we experience when we see someone we love do something awesome.

67 Cinderellas will be performed at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4 and Thursday, March 5, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 8, in the Dolly and Edward Fiterman Theater. Tickets are available now.

  • Play

More Posts

Jackie Smith testifies at Minnesota House meeting

On Thursday, March 2, on behalf of the Minnesota Association of Independent Schools, Director of General Studies Jackie Smith testified in front of the Minnesota House of Representatives Education Finance Committee in support of a bill that would expand state funding for mental health support in independent schools like Heilicher.

Leah Shapiro and Debate it Forward campers in front of The Adler Planetarium

Heilicher alum Leah Shapiro (Heilicher ’08) is redefining debate — what it looks like, what it sounds like, and, most importantly, who can participate. She created My Voice Matters, a debate camp with programs for pre-K through tenth-grade students, with the concept that all children deserve to be heard and feel empowered to share their ideas.

poster board with photos of students preparing for the event

Heilicher's fifth grade planned a mitzvah day and brought together 170+ people, collected 180+ food items for donation, and made 200 mitzvah bags for those in need. They raised $453 to distribute to Sharsheret cancer research, Hadassah children's hospitals, and the Animal Humane Society. Fifth-grade student Mia M. shared her experience working on the event.