During the Autumn half term, the Drama and Dance departments joined to take our production of Romeo and Juliet on international tour. Having first been presented here in school in June 2015, the production then had a short tour of Scottish Prep Schools (Craigclowen, Cargilfield, Ardvreck) at the beginning of the Autumn Term before leaving for the USA on Thursday 15th October.
The United States Tour was in two parts, with a total of four performances over ten days. The first port of call was Boston MA where we performed at Boston Latin School. Boston Latin is the oldest school in the United States, amongst its many famous alumni are five signatories of the Declaration of Independence including Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock. We performed in their Black Box Theatre to a group of over 150 students. Whilst in Boston we enjoyed exploring the city, visiting Faneuil Hall Market Place and the Boston Tea Party Museum and walking part off the ‘Freedom Trail’ to learn something of the history of the city and its important role in the Independence of the United States.
We travelled by ferry from Boston to the historic town of Salem where we visited the Salem Witch Museum and learned about the events that led to the famous Salem Witch Trials, immortalised so brilliantly in Arthur Miller’s play ‘The Crucible’. Whilst in Salem we took a break from performing to watch (and sing along with) a fun production of ‘The Rocky Horror Show’, part of the Haunted Happenings Festival that was going on whilst we were there.
Leaving Boston on Sunday 18th, we travelled down to Brooklyn where we were to spend the next few days staying with host families from Middle School 51. Brooklyn was fantastic, with a lovely relaxed atmosphere and all of the host families made the staff and students feel really at home. Our first Brooklyn performance was at Edward Murrow High School on Monday 19th October. This very large school (4000 students) has a strong focus on Performing Arts and we enjoyed meeting some of their Drama students during a workshop led by teachers from both schools. The cast adapted exceptionally well to a new space here, with the audience seated on two sides of the stage. Following the show, the cast gave an excellent Question and Answer session to the audience culminating in an impromptu Robert Burns recitation by Craig F. to the thrilled audience!
On Tuesday, we travelled into Manhattan where we had a lovely bike ride around Central Park and visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Then it was off to New York University (NYU) to perform to our most mature audience of the tour, a group of PHD education students studying ‘Theatre for Young Audiences’. Again the cast adapted brilliantly to a new space and performed a wonderful and quite intimate show in a small acting studio with no theatre lighting. The cast once again received Questions from the audience and responded with exceptionally intelligent and well informed responses.
Wednesday began with a restful exploration of Brooklyn. We all enjoyed having a bit of down time to look for gifts, search through vintage shops, generally wander through the lovely leafy streets and relax in Prospect Park. On Wednesday evening we held our final performance of Romeo and Juliet in the very large theatre at MS51. It was great to be able to perform for so many of the people who we had all become friends with whilst in Brooklyn and even better to receive a standing ovation for our final show.
Leaving Brooklyn on Thursday felt quite sad, but we headed to Manhattan, knowing that we still had exciting things ahead of us… We celebrated the end of Romeo and Juliet with a meal at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, where the waiting staff performed Broadway hits as we ate! We had a cruise on Hudson Bay with excellent views of the Statue of Liberty from the water… We had an amazing stage fighting workshop with a Broadway choreographer and saw the latest Broadway smash, ‘Something Rotten’. Following the show we went backstage and saw the theatre from the stage, with more than a few of the cast imagining themselves up there in front of an audience in the future! We ended the tour with a midnight trip up the Empire State Building on Friday night were we looked out across the city of New York lit up at night and stretching out as far as we could see.
Throughout the tour the students were fantastic and proved themselves as outstanding ambassadors for the school. They showed their maturity and courageous spirit, not only through their wonderful performances but also everywhere we went and with everyone they spoke to.
I’d like to say an especially huge thank you to the Drama Department at MS51 and to all those who hosted us in their homes whilst we were in Brooklyn. We received such a warm welcome and we’ll remember our time with you all forever.