The Block 3 Build Week provided a rare and exciting opportunity for the middle school history students to prepare a full-fledged stage production of Euripides’ The Trojan Women.

During Block 3, as part of our ongoing study of Ancient Athens, our focus was ancient Greek theater. We studied the architectural design of the ancient theater, the structure of the plays, some notable playwrights, and particularly the cultural and political context and role of dramatic performance in the Golden Age of Athens. The center of our study was a close reading and analysis of The Trojan Women.

For Build Week, we used all of the information and knowledge we gained during the block as a springboard to create our own production of this beautiful, heart rending tragedy. The plan for the week was to bring The Trojan Women to life and to give students the experience of staging a 2,500 year old play. The students had the chance to walk on the stage of the ancients and also to make that stage their own.

We had the good fortune to meet for three hours each day of the Build Week, which was a special treat, since our history class generally meets twice a week. We got to know new sides of each other. Working in teams, the students made plaster masks, forming them on each other’s faces. This is a project that requires consideration and respect, and the students were uniformly kind and thoughtful to each other. They also worked cooperatively and collaboratively designing costumes, sets, and programs. These myriad creations gave students the chance to use and develop their interests in design, art, and construction.

The most exciting part was that the students memorized and rehearsed scenes from the play. We played improvisation games, and the students discovered new ways of conveying thoughts and feelings. They embraced the opportunity to extend these games to explore the characters in their scenes through experimenting with voice and movement. Because ancient Greek theater included song and dance, some students were able to bring their special interests and gifts for ballet and choral singing to this production.

Every student in the class was energetic, enthusiastic, and engaged in breathing life into this ancient play. As the week progressed, we saw their performances becoming more and more thoughtful and compelling. This was history class coming to life, and the students noted how exciting it was for them to have the chance to act out this play, which they studied so extensively. They will present a fully staged performance of The Trojan Women at the beginning of Block 4.

-- Ilyse Gordis