A magical storm threatens a ship full of royal passengers and chaos ensues. It is an exciting way to hook an audience. Participants in the third annual Envision Shakespeare competition, hosted this year by TABC, were tasked with interpreting the first scene of “The Tempest,” which begins exactly that way. Envision Shakespeare is a yeshiva-league competition created and chaired by Rebecca Lopkin of Envision Theater, who directs the theater program at multiple schools including TABC, and Nancy Edelman, TABC curriculum director and veteran member of the English department. Students are invited to present their own creative interpretation of the same scene from a Shakespeare play, using no costumes or props other than folding chairs. Teams of students from TABC, Frisch, Ma’ayanot, Westchester Hebrew High School and SAR spent the day performing their scenes and participating in enriching theater workshops led by the professional teaching artists who served as judges. Students also heard from Peter Avery, the director of theater programs for the NYC Board of Education and a member of the Highland Park Orthodox community, who spoke about the importance of the arts and arts education and gave the students helpful advice and feedback about their performances.
The TABC team, coached by English department chair Dr. Carol Master, was awarded the trophy for most creative interpretation of a scene, and Aharon Nissel was awarded a best actor trophy for his portrayal of Prospero, the exiled duke and sorcerer who creates the magical storm and isn’t even written into the scene. The TABC team ingeniously put him in the background, using his magic to exact his revenge on those who had usurped his throne. Ezra Hermann of SAR also won a trophy for best actor. P’nina Krischer of Ma’ayanot won the award for best director for directing her ensemble’s creation of the sound of the storm using a capella voices. Westchester Hebrew High School won the overall competition, using voices as well as hands to create the sounds of the storm.
It was a day of experiential learning and exposure to the arts that prompted one student to comment, “I wish school was like this every day.”