Putting it into Practice: Culturally Responsive Reading for High School Drama Study
Reading literature which supports underrepresented voices and perspectives is an excellent way to include CRRP and diversify instruction in the classroom! Theatre and drama have are unique in their ability to make the reader consider the perspectives and lives of others. Below is a list of 12 plays (with descriptions) which are of significant literary merit and are appropriate for high school students to read. These plays examine several themes, including cultural identity, homophobia, ableism, economic inequality, and mental health. Any one of these plays is sure to be challenging and engaging for teen readers and beyond.
Theatre as Education
The Cherry Orchard Directing Proposal
One of the reasons I'm most passionate about theatre is its ability to engage an audience and community. Schools are an integral part of any community, and theatre is an incredible way for a school to engage with the local community while providing a thoroughly educational experience for all who are involved. There are numerous options for high school productions, but one which I am particularly hoping to direct one day is The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov. Set in Russia at the turn of the 20th century, Lyubov Andreyevich is an aristocratic matriarch. Due to the shifts in wealth and power from the industrial revolution, she is tasked with finding someone to help her keep her vast estate and cherry orchard, or be forced to sell. But what is the true value of such a wide property with so troubled a history?
Not only does this play support a wide, diverse cast and exciting (yet manageable) set pieces, it's a philosophical exploration of economics, class, and what it means to be valued in society. Lyubov may be the central character, but this story is a true ensemble piece filled with rich, heart-warming characters. It's also a comedy, something we could all use these days. Chekhov's signature comic wit adds nuanced and surprising humor to this family's tale.
I personally acted in this play while in undergrad, and it was one of the most meaningful theatrical experiences I ever had. I played Trofimov, the perpetual student withholding secret admiration, and after a few years of playing the naive ingenue, I became engrossed in this role with deep humanity and philosophical insight. I was intimidated by this play at first, but the experience of developing the play with my director and ensemble was such a uniquely rewarding social exploration, that we all felt deeply connected to our characters and each other soon after we began. I hope one day to bring this unique experience to my students and my community as a school drama director, as well as many more.
Click here for the full directing proposal with full synopsis of the play.