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Students Reenact Scenes from French Revolution
Posted 04/29/2017 08:21AM

Students from Phil Lazzaro’s History of Western Civilization class took to the stage Thursday, April 27, for an evening presentation of their scripts dramatizing scenes from the era of the French Revolution.

The presentation of four distinct short plays collaboratively written by the sophomores in Mr. Lazzaro’s class marked the culmination of a 10-week project called “Page to Stage” produced in association with New York City’s Roundabout Theater.

Since March, Mr. Lazzaro’s students have worked with Roundabout’s educational consultant Gail Winar, an actor, director and producer working as a visiting artist who introduced the concept of "Page to Stage" to the students. Mr. Lazzaro, who co-directed the four playlets with Ms. Winar, applauds the educational value of the project. “Teaching a myriad of ways to look at history has been a great experience. From the elements of playwriting to the manipulation of an audience, the entire experience has been tremendous,” said Mr. Lazzaro. Part of the project included a trip to the Roundabout Theater to see the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s classic “The Price.”

To depict the events associated with the French Revolution, the 16 students were divided into four groups, each one responsible for writing a short dramatic scene, and then staging it and playing the roles of the historical figures.

Dylan Zink, who took on the role of the notorious Robespierre, said working on the project helped him go beyond the research to understand the depths of his character’s villainy. “Robesepierre was one of the worst figures in French history,” said Dylan. “He was an angry, vicious man who started the Reign of Terror.”

Another student, Courtney Warren, who played a male role of a national assemblyman opposed to the revolution, said working on the project offered her a chance to learn about writing for a play. Her contribution to the script was to write scenes for the rising action based on the research she conducted. Courtney, who said she “loves history,” is considering studying law after Harvey. She had written a research paper for Mr. Lazzaro on Robespierre and his role in the Reign of Terror. Courtney said the “Page to Stage” project helped her classmates gain a fuller understanding of the political upheaval in France during the time of the revolution. “It helped me learn more about the French Revolution and engaged everyone in the class, especially the visual learner,” said Courtney.

Following their stage performance, the students conducted a question-and-answer session with the audience made up of parents, teachers and friends. When asked how many of the students in the project had ever acted onstage before, only four raised their hands. Colin Glascott said the most important thing he took from the experience was that “it forced us to step out of our comfort zone.” Elizabeth Mahony liked the fact that the project “allowed us to work together as a team.”

Ms. Winar, who made 10 visits to work with Mr. Lazzaro and his students in the theater arts residency, became teary-eyed when she told the audience how much she enjoyed working with the Harvey students. She might get another chance next year as Mr. Lazzaro announced that the “great success” of the project prompted the history department to offer a full-semester elective next spring called, “Page to Stage – 20th Century European History.”

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