By Stephanie Simon, Volume 24
March 13, 1985
The existence of two high schools in one city might be expected to produce student bodies, which are divided by dramatic rivalries. In the case of Newton North and Newton South, however, the students are about to be united by a theatrical project. Approximately 40 students from the two high schools are collaborating in the production of a student –run play.
The idea of producing a North/South play originated with Jo Simon, the director of the Newton Arts Center. She asked South English teacher Patricia Kempton and METCO counselor Florence Turner I they would be interested in writing a proposal for a grant for a student-run play.
“Pat and I were excited about the idea. We thought it feasible to use this opportunity for addressing racial and ethnic adolescent group concerns and feelings. We also wanted to unite students (from the two high schools,” says Turner. Last summer, the Massachusetts Arts Council decided to fund and support the project.
After receiving the funds, the next step in making the play a reality was to find interested students to begin researching and writing the script. At Newton North, English teacher Inez Dover agreed to be the faculty director, and Jay Cradle, a physical education teacher, volunteered to oversee the choreography. Together with Kempton who would oversee the writing aspect of the play, and Turner, who would oversee the musical development, thy began to advertise for interested writers. In late October, a group of thirteen students (eight from Newton South) got together and began to brainstorm. Pamela Karp, a Junior who helped write the play and is currently acting and singing in it, thought writing the play was a very good experience. “We (students from North and South) talked about things that bothered us, like Cliques, and problems with parents,” she says. “We wrote and rewrote the scenes. It’s been a lot of work, but now it’s beginning to come together.”
Several students who helped to write the play have recently come to America from foreign countries. Seymour Beckford, a junior whose roots are in Jamaica, and Ilan Marcoschamer, who moved here from Israel 1-1/2 years ago, contributed their experiences and feelings about moving. In fact, the play centers on three families who move from their native countries of Jamaica, Israel and Korea. It also includes problems that the kids have in adjusting to American life and dealing with pressures and prejudices.
“I really enjoyed writing [the play] because I could express my feelings,” says Beckford. According to Marcoschamer, “It’s supposed to give a message to American kids to accept people from other countries.”
In addition to the three families, there are characters from Central America, as well as METCO students and black students living in the suburbs. But basically the play is about teenage high school life.
“It deals with feelings and problems… from a student’s point of view,” states Turner. “It is filled with everyday situations.”
Auditions for Fitting In were held in early January, and by the end of the month the North/South cast began working on the production.
Collaborating with the actors were “behind the scenes” workers who developed a very important part of the play—the music. All music is being composed and arranged by students for every instrument in a joint North/South orchestra. These students also put lyrics to music for the play’s vocal background. All choreography is also original student work.
The play, which runs about two hours, will be performed April 26th at Newton South and the following evening at Newton North. There will also be a matinee production at the Newton Arts Center, the date of which will be announced later.
From the program’s inception, the play has had the full support of the principals of both high schools, This encouragement has helped to bring the two groups of students together. According to Dover, “This theatre project will help bridge the gap between North and South.” In doing so, it may help students to understand and appreciate people from different backgrounds, and may bridge the gap between prejudice and friendship.