Students from Principia and Alton High will present “This Is Our Story,” a play created and scripted exclusively by Alton High School students, at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 24, at Jacoby Arts Center at 627 E. Broadway in Alton.
ALTON — This spring, students from Principia College and Alton High School have been collaborating on a project that illustrates the transforming power of theater.
Working alongside Principia’s Annenberg Scholar Caroline Watson, they created characters and stories that give voice to community challenges. For more than 20 years, Watson has lived and worked in China, where, as founder and director of Hua Dan, she uses theater as an agent for social change to support migrant workers, particularly women. Inspired by the innovative work of Brazilian actor Augusto Boal, who utilized theater to explore issues communities face and find ways to solve them, she develops programs in partnership with schools and community organizations in Beijing.
Under Watson’s guidance, students from Principia and Alton High will present “This Is Our Story,” a new play created and scripted exclusively by Alton High School students that gives voice to such challenges as family dysfunction, drug use, difficult relationships, and standing up for what’s right. Audience members won’t just watch the play, though. They’ll become active agents for change — what Boal termed “spect-actors” — as they discuss the stories presented and explore possible solutions through stepping into the play themselves as characters.
The experience brought a fresh and dynamic look at the transformative potential of theater for Principia sophomore Tim Steckler.
“It’s amazing to see these kids realize that they have a voice and the power to express themselves freely in the context of theater,” he says. “Giving kids parts in a production to solve the issues they face can open so many doors for them.”
Principia sophomore Elle Miller agrees.
“We have been striving to teach the kids that theater is not a distraction from everything in life — it’s the means to a solution,” she said. “If the program can help change the perspective or empower the thoughts of a single student, then it has succeeded.”
A free public performance will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 24, at Jacoby Arts Center at 627 E. Broadway in Alton.