For Immediate Release
Students from South Philadelphia High School will perform their original play, WE WRITE SOUTH PHILLY HIGH on the Wilma's Stage, Tuesday June 7, 2011
"Ethnicity is not a barrier for friendship. Racism needs to be ended here at school. We can achieve solidarity by opening our minds and hearts to differences. Friendship is the miracle that can bring people from diverse backgrounds together." - Thien, student
Philadelphia - Students from South Philadelphia High school have been working with Teaching Artists from The Wilma Theater, 1812 Productions, and Philadelphia Young Playwrights to create, produce, and perform an original piece of theater that will be performed live on the Wilma's stage on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 7:00pm for an invited audience. The play, directed by teaching artist Tom Reing is titled We Write South Philly High and is the product of three semester-long residencies in which more than 50 students studied acting and playwriting while examining the various layers of identity, past and present, that make up South Philadelphia High School.
In 2009, South Philadelphia High School was thrown into the national media spotlight after several students were attacked, citing racially-driven motives. This production is in direct response to these incidents and the school’s on-going challenges as it recognizes the need to rebuild pride in the school and mend cultural differences among the students. Through a collaborative effort with 1812 Productions, Philadelphia Young Playwrights, The South Philadelphia High School Alumni Association, and the Asian Arts Initiative, The Wilma Theater will return focus to the creative legacy of the school and provide students with the opportunity to redefine the school’s identity despite it’s challenging circumstances.
"Over the past year and a half, we have all read so much disturbing news about the school and the fighting among the students - we wanted to offer a platform for students to express their own stories about their experiences at South Philadelphia High School," says Program Director Anne Holmes. "We have received tremendous support from principal Otis Hackney and our key collaborators at the school, Lorraine Rivera and Peter Ellis, and we are confident that this program will enable the students to discover a common pride in their school that celebrates its incredible diversity."
The multi-disciplinary production, inspired in form by plays like The Laramie Project, will feature real-life accounts of students, staff and alumni collected through interviews conducted by the students themselves. Ultimately, the play is a patchwork of stories starring the students in live performances, readings, and video clips.
South Philadelphia High School has a tradition of producing some of the most celebrated artists and musicians in the world such as Chubby Checker (creator of the dance phenomenon 'The Twist'), Marian Anderson (opera singer), and Frankie Avalon (actor and musician). Contemporary television audiences are familiar with commercial jingles such as the Folgers's 'Best Part of Waking Up,' which was written by South Philadelphia High School Alum, Jerry J. Siano.
This outreach collaborative is through a project of The Wilma Theater known as Wilmagination. Wilmagination provides theater-based classroom residencies with the School District of Philadelphia that integrate theater into the academic curriculum at the middle and high school level. The program is designed to increase and support the classroom curriculum through interactive and creatively engaging theatrical techniques. Each Wilmagination lesson is carefully crafted to meet multiple learning objectives simultaneously. As students learn to appreciate, critique, and ultimately create their own theatrical performance, they acquire skills in reading, writing, speaking, problem solving, and critical thinking that are outlined under Pennsylvania Academic Standards. For many students in our program, this is their first introduction to attending and/or making theater, the newness of which generates an invigorated attitude toward learning as a whole.
The Wilma Theater, a nationally and internationally recognized regional theater, exists to present theater as an art form, engaging artists and audiences in an adventure of aesthetic philosophical reflection of the complexities of contemporary life. We accomplish our mission by producing thoughtful, well-crafted, productions of intelligent, daring plays that represent a range of voices, viewpoints, and production styles.