Some of the students in Sam Rosenfeld’s Theatre Workshop class this summer are already planning to take four years of theatre classes at D219, while others may just be looking to get their Public Speaking class requirement out of the way. But regardless of their future coursework, these students are getting some lessons in teamwork that should serve them well in high school and beyond.
At one session in late June, some 30 students, arranged into three different working groups, were challenged to figure out how each group would land a tennis ball on a section of open PVC pipe, with the ball balanced on a ring that had to be stretched with even tension by ropes held by each team member. The volume in the room rose sharply as some students offered suggestions or directions — some politely, some more vociferously. But then a hush descended when the groups got close to their objective, the rope-holders quiet with concentration.
After each of the three groups got the hang of it, Rosenfeld, who the students call “Mr. Rose,” announced the final challenge: all three groups would have to work together to land their respective balls on a PVC configuration that held three different landing points at different levels.
After less than five minutes, and using a combination of verbal instructions and physical cues, the students had accomplished the goal — and had become an ensemble.
This was just one of many team-building challenges Rosenfeld introduces to the students during the first half of summer school. When they return for the second half in July, Rosenfeld turns to more conventional theatre topics, including “telling your story and ” “finding your voice,” which he frames through a lens of social justice. As a final project, students prepare and perform a final monologue.
After the ball-and-rope challenge, Rosenfeld gathered all the students in a circle in the Black Box Theatre and asked each person to reflect on this question: “Pick one thing you can do personally to be a better member of this ensemble.” Each student then shared their answers with the group.
The self-awareness and candor expressed by the students reflected the strong sense of community Rosenfeld has already been able to establish in the workshop, an auspicious prediction of the work this ensemble will accomplish going forward.