Hop brings art to young students

The Hopkins Center’s school matinee series allows area schools and young children to meet and talk to artists who visit campus.

Hop outreach coordinator Mary Gaetz said that the program embodies the Hop’s goal to include education as part of its mission.

The program aims to be as inclusive as possible by making performances interesting and informative for students.

“We help schools incorporate this as part of their curriculum, and the tickets are highly subsidized, which makes it more accessible,” Gaetz said.

This winter, the program offered high school students discounted tickets and special programming for the theater department’s production of “Spring Awakening.”

“‘Spring Awakening’ was such a great, topical piece,” Gaetz said. “We did a pre-show talk with the artistic team, who spoke with the students about the show. After, we had small group discussion with performers in the show.”

The format allowed the Dartmouth students to act as mentors to Hanover High School students, who had previously performed a version of the work.

“They had some questions about how the two compared, how they were similar or different and how things changed for the adaptation, so that was fun to discuss,” Chris Gallerani ’15, who played Hanschen in Dartmouth’s production, said.

The students asked about show rehearsals, coordinating the production’s technical elements and the issues it explores, like sexuality and sexual assault, Gallerani said.

“The issues that occur in the show are very real and hit home for many people,” Audrey Djiya ’17, who played Martha, said in an email. “It was interesting to hear how the show affected the high schoolers — they really opened up to us and to each other.”

Recently, the series has experimented with companion workshops, Gaetz said. After a performance relating to the Civil War, a staff member from the Hop traveled to a school to help the students put together their own Civil War performance. For an upcoming series showcasing wind quintet Imani Winds, Hop outreach assistant Erin Smith will visit schools to do a workshop about listening and storytelling through music.

Hop employees involved with the program write study guides for teachers to use in the classroom. For Gaetz, researching the artists and their craft closely is particularly rewarding. Besides the schools that participate in the show, there is also a large homeschooled contingency among attendees. The study guides, provided by the program and available online, help these students further explore the theme or central concept of the performance, Hop programming director Margaret Lawrence said.

Lawrence said that the shows perform a “double duty,” as they are presented both publicly and to schools. The series attempts to strike a balance within its programming.

“I keep in mind the quality and the relevance to curriculum of each performer, but they also have to be appealing to the public,” Lawrence said. “We are looking for a broad range of different experiences.”

The program has been well-received by the community and participating schools, Gaetz said. Teachers have told Gaetz that shows at the Hop connect with classroom materials.

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