GOA students participate in pilot theater program

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — Last spring, the Educational Theatre Association selected 12, two-member teams for its Model Curriculum Framework Project. Jordan Herskowitz, Golda Och Academy’s Upper School dean of students and arts department chair, was chosen out of the more than 100 applicants for this prestigious program, which is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The two-member teams consist of high school theater educators and teaching artists from across the country who will create a high school curriculum framework and a series of standards-based instructional units in targeted areas of theater. Herskowitz has been paired with New York City teaching artist Brian Curl for the musical theater unit.

In July, teams met for a three-day professional development symposium in Cincinnati where they collaborated and worked alongside EdTA national staff. Herskowitz and Curl then implemented a unit at Golda Och Academy at the beginning of the school year called “Finding the Meaning Behind the Movement” to discover what drives a character to move onstage. Eleven high school students were selected to participate in this pilot program, which met over the course of five after-school sessions.

“The workshop provided me focus as an actor and gave me examples of what I can do better to improve my acting to expand myself,” Golda Och Academy sophomore Gabi Weiss said.

Students explored character movement and workshopped a solo or duet song from a musical theater piece. Additionally, participants were filmed during the workshops and interviewed about their experience in the program for Herskowitz and Curl to submit their findings. EdTA staff member Ken Bolinsky also came to observe and provide feedback.

Senior Amanda Feldman said prior to the workshop that she was afraid to test her emotional range as an actor. “Once we started the workshop, it helped me to commit to my acting choices. Now, I feel more confident in the characters I play,” she said.

“Having Golda Och Academy as one of the participating schools in this project has given our students unique insight into the development of a theater curriculum,” Herskowitz said. “Our students’ work will become an integral part of new national standards for high school theater classes. I have no doubt our students greatly benefited from working with Mr. Curl and will apply these techniques in future arts productions.”

Photos Courtesy of Golda Och Academy