Experiencing a live production of a play or musical can be an event to remember for life. For many years, the Northern Lake County Arts Board has been funding trips so that students can experience the magic of professional theater for themselves.
Katie Fritz, an English teacher at William Kelley High School, has chaperoned trips to the Guthrie and the Duluth Playhouse. “Every trip fills up quickly,” Fritz says. “Students are really craving experiences like this.” In the past, she has taken students to see productions including Pericles, Cyrano de Bergerac, and A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Depending on the show and its connection to curriculum, students in grades 7-12 are eligible for these theater trips.
This year, students viewed Into the Woods at the Duluth Playhouse on March 23rd. On May 4th, another group of students traveled to the Orpheum in Minneapolis to see the popular musical Hamilton. On May 24th, students will have another opportunity to see a play, this one The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime Viewing these plays can bring the curriculum studies of the classroom to life. Seniors in the “Forms of Fiction” class read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and Fritz says, “when I saw it was playing, I jumped at the chance to bring students to the live show.” The 7th grade students did a Fables and Fairy Tales unit in their literature class, and Into the Woods “aligns well with this,” according to Fritz. She reached out to the Northern Lake County Arts Board and received funding to take students to this play.
Fritz teaches Shakespeare in 9th grade, and comments, “I am always hoping to get students out to see Shakespeare performed – as it was intended to be – Shakespeare never imagined his plays would be read in a ninth grade classroom.”
When students get the opportunity to see a “bigger” show, classes will sometimes collaborate to best study the material. For Cyrano de Bergerac, the play was promoted in both English class and French class, due to the original play being written in French. “This was particularly fun because it was the year we were performing Cyrano as our school One Act Play for competition.”
With this year’s viewing of Hamilton, the play was able to be promoted in many classes: History, English, French, and Music. The William Kelley theater team was encouraged to attend, and 11th grade English students studied some of the early American documents connected to the musical.
“For most students, these trips are the only time they’ve been able to go to live, professional theater,” Katie Fritz adds. “Once they go to one show with the school, they’re hooked and just continue to sign up every year.”
“I loved this so much and would definitely go again. I was really amazed at how well they tied everything together and was just overall very happy I was able to go,” one student said after viewing Into the Woods on March 23rd.
On May 4th, after students viewed Hamilton, they were able to do a “talkback” with the orchestra and hear about the experience of being on tour as a pit musician with a Broadway show.
“The whole experience is what makes the event so fun,” Fritz concludes. “From walking into the theater’s lobby and getting to explore, to finding a seat in a crowd of theater-goers, to being transported into a story during the show – it all works together to make these events so memorable for students.”
Another student who attended Into the Woods summed it up. “Many thanks to the funders and the people from the Arts Board! I had a super fun time going to see Into the Woods, and it was a great experience! I am really grateful that I was able to attend this trip for free from the amazing people that made this trip possible! I would love to go on another trip like this if possible and again I thank the funders that we were able to go for free! If I didn’t say it enough, thank you!