Cultivating Young Artists: Hopkins Students Teach Drama
As Hopkins students have spent their summer in pursuit of new outlets through which to serve the community, Anand Choudhary ’22, Orly Baum ’22, and Will Schroth-Douma ’23 brought drama to students at the Discovery Interdistrict Magnet School in Bridgeport, CT.
Following the dissolution of the drama department at Discovery, Choudhary, Baum, and Schroth-Douma sought to reintroduce theater and all its joys to about 25 students aged 11-13 for six hours each week. Typical daily activities started with warm-ups and games, followed by a main activity which “switched between doing scenes, telling them a story, and leaving out the ending and having them come up with and act out their own endings in groups, lip-sync battles, [among other things].”
The trio looked to Hopkins Drama teachers and directors Mike Calderone and Hope Hartup and Director of Choral Music Erika Schroth for curriculum inspiration. Choudhary said that nearly “every single improv game we played with them was something Will, Orly, or I learned at Hopkins. My love for acting and theater started just before I got to Hopkins, but it's because of Mike, Hope, and Mrs. Schroth that I feel so passionately about it.”
An alum of the Magnet school, Choudhary felt a strong personal connection to the project: “The first show that I ever did, The Lion King, was [at the school] where the program took place... I thought that bringing [the drama program] back would be awesome because that's where my love for performing started.” Similarly, Baum’s own positive experiences with theater programs at Hopkins, as well as others, motivated her to help students reap the benefits of drama. She said, “Theater and improv are both such good ways to learn more about yourself and about the people and the world around you, so I wanted these students to have the opportunity to do that in a fun and relaxed environment.” Schroth-Douma added his motivation, “There are truly few things more sacred and special to me than theatre and the arts—performing with a group of people is this spontaneous, unpredictable, and as a result, magical thing—and if we could share with these kids a portion of that “magic”, then I would’ve been satisfied.”
The added social pressures and anxiety caused by the Covid-19 pandemic were also a consideration for Choudhary: “Since the program was in-person, I'm hoping that performing in a low-stakes environment was a jumping-off point for [the students] to be reintroduced into in-person life again.” He continued, “the performing arts have been a great way to stay connected in the Hopkins community for me, and I hope that I was able to pass on that experience to the kids.”
Choudhary shared that the group watched their pupils’ growth with pride: “On our first day, we were looking at a group of mostly shy kids who didn't want to come up on stage and participate, but on our last, we had a group of kids who were sad that the class was over and were eagerly raising their hands to participate in all the activities we did. I'd definitely call that a success.”
The most valuable lesson for the drama mentors was the importance of adapting to those you are working with and to the situation. Baum said, “Go with the flow! Programs like this are so everyone, including teachers, can have fun and learn something new. [It’s important to] trust yourself: you know what you're doing and you love what you're sharing, so be confident and have fun.” Choudhary suggested that students considering a similar initiative should: “just go for it. If you really love something enough, you'll find a way to spread your love and passion for a certain thing in a way that works best for you.” He concludes, “It would be nice if I was able to instill a love for performing arts, and just arts in general, in the kids, but at the end of the day, I really just hope they had fun.”