Interview with Capital City

Studio Theatre’s student matinee program provides local area students with the experience of live, intimate, contemporary theatre—and also enriches students' learning by offering support materials and interactive workshops. Education Apprentice Kaitlyn McElrath spoke with Capital City Public Charter School instructor Jill Weiler about her class’s response to Choir Boy and the connections her students made between the play's events and characters and their own lives and experiences.

KAITLYN MCELRATH: How did your students prepare to see Choir Boy?

JILL WEILER: My 11th graders all participated in the Studio Theatre workshop with you, Nathan [Norcross, assistant director of Choir Boy] and Madeleine [Burke Pitt, Studio’s Education Manager]. The AP English Language and Composition class read the play ahead of time, and we discussed it briefly. The 9th and 11th grade students read the bio on McCraney provided in the study guide. I used the study guide to give each of my classes a synopsis of the play before the play, and we used some of the study guide questions to develop activities for the workshops.

KM: What was your students’ response to the production? What did they enjoy? Were they surprised by anything?

JW: Many of our students are naming Choir Boy "the best play I ever saw!" There was a real buzz among students and faculty for the whole week leading up to and after the play. They had lots of questions for which they solicited responses from their peers and then wrote thesis statements. They loved the singing; they loved the depth of the characters and the fact that they could relate to so many of them. They appreciated the power of the play to touch so many of their emotions. (The performance much more so than the reading of the play ahead of time.)

KM: Can you tell me about the diversity workshop you organized? Who led the event? What kind of topics did they cover? Who attended the workshop? Was it held before or after seeing the production?

JW: Thirty-five juniors and seniors facilitated a pre-show and post-show workshop for the approximately 370 students and faculty who attended Choir Boy. Student facilitators attended six hours of training to be able to learn and practice the workshop activities and prepare workshop materials. The pre-show workshop focused on the power of language in general and the "N-word" and "f-word" in particular. Also in this first workshop, participants were introduced to the characters in the play through photographs and brief monologues. The post-show workshop engaged students in discussing their questions from the play, making connections through the characters, and examining their own beliefs about homophobia. Overall, the feedback has been extremely positive. Student facilitators are especially skilled at both minimizing distracting behaviors and inspiring courageous conversations.