John jay's June Production
Changes: an Ethnodrama
Work on John Jay Theatre Workshop's June production is underway but instead of rehearsing a script, the students are writing the script! “Changes” is an ethnodrama, meaning that actors create a script based on interviews and perform it as a play.
It’s a big idea that taps students’ journalism skills as well as acting abilities, engaging long-time student-actors as well as those new to theater.
“It’s a very unique experience,” said Flora Elghanayan, one of the 27 students involved. “We are so happy to have the opportunity to create something like this,” adds her twin sister Ava. Both have been involved in every John Jay production since they were freshmen. “It wouldn’t have happened any other year.”
Junior actors Flora and Ava
Maclain designed the show's logo
Taking stories from people in our lives and honoring them through a performance
When CDC recommendations deterred any plans for spring musical, Director Amanda Urban pitched the idea of an ethnodrama to students. It was a natural follow-up to their fall production, “The Laramie Project,” during which the actors had the opportunity to meet Amanda Gronich, one of the theater artists who co-created the play from over 200 interviews.
The students picked change as their theme. Each of the actors is interviewing two people about a time of change in their life, looking for an event or anecdote that makes good theater. The subjects range from a soldier in the Israeli army and a Broadway performer to a new mother and a great-grandparent. As a group, the actors will determine how to present the personal stories as a cohesive whole.
"There's something really special about taking stories from people in our lives and honoring them through a performance," said Urban.
new format attracts new students to theater
“I love watching theater and musicals but was always scared to audition for one,” said junior Sasha Volkova. “This year’s ethnodrama has a much more laid-back approach that made me more willing to try it out.” Freshman Maclain Rockett, who is also new to theater, said that they are really enjoying the writing, editing and debriefing process. They also designed the show logo.
Even while the daily rehearsals are mainly writing and shaping sessions, the stage is always on the actors’ minds. “Ms. Urban is teaching us how to notice things about a person when we interview them—what they do with their hands, how they speak—so we can become them,” said Ava.
writing the script is all about collaboration
"Changes" will be a recorded zoom production
“Changes” will be available for streaming starting June 10th. The link will be posted on John Jay High School's website.
The production will feature a film score composed by junior Hunter McKendry. Overseeing the production is Stage Manager Ruby Bochicchio-Sipos and Assistant Stage Manager Grace Mango, both seniors.