Middle Park high school reinvests in the arts with new theatre class
Middle Park High School has expanded their artistic coursework offerings this year with the creation of a brand new introduction to theater class, taught by theater department head and Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre House Manager Christal McDougall.
The class, which began this semester, is an outgrowth of the school’s efforts to develop a more comprehensive theater department for high school students.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Thom Schnellinger, Middle Park High School principal. “It really speaks to an interest area for the kids: arts creative arts and performing arts. This seemed to be a way for us to support that effort further.”
McDougall was hired by the school district last fall to serve as the director for the fall theater production. She and the students who participated in the extracurricular theater production solicited donations from the local community to support the fall production and to send students to the Colorado Thespian Conference in Denver.
“It was clear to (Middle Park High School Principal) Thom Schnellinger that I was interested in more than just directing the shows,” McDougall stated. “I wanted to develop a more comprehensive theatre program if possible.”
The school’s counselors approached her after the start of the school year to gauge her interest in teaching a formal theatre class at the high school.
“I jumped at the chance,” she said.
For the first iteration of the new class, McDougall is working with 21 students, meeting each school day with students working on a array of projects and programs. The class is intended to serve as an introduction to all aspects of the theater arts with an emphasis on both collaborative activities and performance projects.
“We do a variety of activities in class,” McDougall explained, highlighting warm-ups, journal writing and theater games as standard practice. “We combine readings with discussions and collaborative activities. Today the students will be performing each other’s original monologues, which they workshopped in partners last week.”
Curriculum for the class includes examining theater history and performance exercises such as improvisational skits and scene studies.
“Students will create theater, understand the historical and cultural influences of theater, and learn to make informed critical and aesthetic judgements both orally and in writing,” McDougall explained.
McDougall, who taught English in the Boulder area for 14 years, now serving as the house manager at Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre in Grand Lake, was very excited about the new class offering at Middle Park. She said she hopes the program will flourish and grow in coming years, but said there are no formal plans to expand the theater coursework offerings in Granby at this time.
“I’m grateful to have so many students who are committed to making new things happen,” McDougall said. “They are talented and smart and kind to each other; they are truly creating a theater family. I’ve also had great support from the school administration. Thom recognizes the value of supporting the arts at the high school, and the number of students involved shows that they appreciate the investment. I’m excited about the possibilities going forward!”
Middle Park’s theater department is currently preparing for its spring production, “Rock of Ages” — the high school edition — which is slated to run from March 22 to March 24.
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