Witches, ghosts, and wolves—oh my! 21 middle school students at the co-located IS 171 and Highland Park Community School in Brooklyn are preparing to bring audiences on a fantastical adventure in I Wish…, an original adaptation of Into the Woods. For our tenth year in partnership with Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, Teaching Artist Taylor Valentine and his students have raised the bar yet again for what promises to be an ambitious, engaging show.
Part of what makes this year’s production so exciting is the use of thrust staging, which extends the stage into the audience bringing them closer to the action. To get the students used to using the multi-level platform stage, Taylor worked with them to put the scenic elements into place earlier in the semester than usual. “The staging affects how the students move,” he explains, “So we had to create an awareness and be mindful of being seen and heard from three different sides.”
The students—19 actors and two stage managers—were up to the challenge, rehearsing for hours after school each week to get ready for opening night. Litzy, a seventh grader at HPCS who played Asaka in last year’s production of The Story of Ti Moune, was particularly dedicated. “[She] was very candid with me during one of our conversations and said that drama was responsible for her becoming a more confident person,” Taylor says, adding that she had also thanked him for helping her overcome stage fright. For Litzy and her castmates, this year’s endeavor represented another opportunity to grow themselves as well as their skills—and they’ve certainly risen to the occasion.
They were helped along by ATG alumna Yarielis, who returned to the program to serve as Assistant Musical Director. Yarielis, who as an eighth grader had also participated in our Audition Prep companion program, is now a sophomore at Talent Unlimited High School. Four of our current eighth graders will also be going on to performing arts high schools—Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts, Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, and Brooklyn High School of the Arts—and one will be headed to a visual arts high school, High School for Art and Design.
Congratulations to all of our students on another wonderful semester! Join us this week as they present I Wish… on Wednesday, May 17th and Thursday, May 18th in the I.S. 171/HPCS auditorium.
Artwork courtesy of Edwina White.