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Staging a comic tragedy, with masks and lots of deaths

Study of Greek drama inspires production

Can you imagine if the Teletubbies were a foursome of juice box-stealing, homicidal, high-speed-chasing and cash reward-seeking beings rather than the beloved TV creatures many grew up watching?

A group of East Grand Rapids Middle Schoolers imagined just that. Then they wrote a script, created masks and performed it.

“We tried to make it a comedy,” said Petra Moelker.

Added Mikey Beusse: “Then Petra kills me, so it’s horror too.”

“Because he drank La La’s juice box without asking,” Petra explained.

Besides the criminal cuteness, the group performances inspired by Greek tragedies included a clown at a slumber party — never a good outcome there — a handful of poisonings, a few stabbings and lots and lots of giggling-induced death throes in teacher Aubrielle Hardman’s drama class.

Students wrote their own plays, odes to Greek tragedies

Hands-on Theater

The trimester elective is open to all seventh graders, with no prerequisites. The Greek tragedy lesson was a culmination of the class’ study of Greek history.

“It is a really tangible and hands-on way for the students to understand how theater began, and how the use of masks transforms a person into a different character,” Hardman said.

The class, in its third year being offered at the school, includes the study of the history of drama, improvisation, performance skills and scene creation.

Hardman said she noticed students “become so much more engaged when they are using their creativity and artistic ability” to make the masks.

“They are all working together and helping one another. The students really open up and become more authentic with each other, and me, when they are working on something they care about. This project requires a lot of focus from the students, and they did such an amazing job throughout the entire project.”

Part of the drama class includes script writing

Accidental Drama Teacher

Hardman came to teach the class having been in one musical and one high school drama class her freshman year of high school. 

She said she worked with art teacher Holly Lampen on the mask portion  last year. As the masks dry on the counter in her science class lab, Hardman said students in her other classes ask her about them. 

“One student asked me what they were for and I told him, ‘They are for my drama class. They are learning about the history of Greek theater.’ He promptly responded, ‘Can I join drama?’ 

“The curiosity of my students is one of my greatest motivators. I hope students continue to come to me curious and leave inspired.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.


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