Classroom and Community – Next Act Theatre

Classroom and Community

Classroom and Community

By Grace DeWolff, Education Manager and Ryleigh Carroll, Education Intern

My favorite part of this season happened on March 2, 2022. Each year, Next Act develops a student project that coincides with one of the season’s plays. The overall goal is to provide a group of students the opportunity and means to create an artistic response to the Next Act production. This year, that show was PIPELINE, by Dominique Morisseau.

PIPELINE‘s student matinee was full to capacity with students from four different schools: two classrooms from Oak Creek High School, a class from Milwaukee High School of the Arts, Audubon High School and Obama SCTE. The latter were in attendance through Story MKE, a grant partnership with UWM’s Electa Quinney Institute for American Indian Education and Milwaukee Public Schools. My intern Ryleigh and I had been delivering workshops both virtually and in-person for about a month, diving into Dominique Morisseau’s text and preparing them for the live performance. If a school couldn’t make the workshops or the field trip work, we sent them asynchronous curriculum along with the script and free access to the virtual production.

A small but mighty directing class at Milwaukee High School of the Arts opted into the full PIPELINE Community Project residency. We talked about a few select scenes in the play, and the students were able to email questions to PIPELINE director Jamil A.C. Mangan, which he answered via video. I asked them to respond to the question “What would you tell your mom if you were in Omari [the student in the play]’s shoes?” The students wrote, directed and filmed their own creative response to the themes and ideas in the play. You can find their work, and Jamil’s video, on Next Act’s YouTube channel.

Story MKE is a project in which student leaders identify authors and texts they want to read, lead discussions and develop cultural connections. They had found PIPELINE before they knew we had it in our season and were ecstatic to be able to watch it live. I asked one of our young audience members after the show if it had met her expectations. “It was really emotional,” she said. “I knew what it was about because we read it and studied it, and I knew it was an emotional piece, but you don’t really know how much – you don’t really get that, you’re not feeling it, unless you see it live.” On the Friday after the student matinee, we reserved ten tickets for the Kellogg PEAK initiative, an after-school program held in a gorgeous building in Tiefenthaler Park. For the kids who weren’t able to see the live performance, we held a watch party at PEAK, where actors Malaina Moore and Ibraheem Farmer (PIPELINE‘s Jasmine and Omari, respectively) were able to visit and talk with students about the world of professional theater.

Due to COVID restrictions, some students hadn’t had a field trip in years before coming to Next Act. “These poor kids have been begging for a field trip,” one teacher told me after the show, “I’m so happy we could take them on one with so much substance. They loved meeting the actors [at the talkback]!”

MHSA students at PIPELINE

Thank you to Werner Krause, Bader Philanthropies, Pieper Power PPC Foundation, Inc. and the Kohl’s Hometown Giving Program whose generosity this season continues to keep all of our educational programming free of charge to schools and students.

Do you have students who would be interested in attending a matinee at Next Act? Are you a student who is interested? Contact Education Manager Grace DeWolff at grace@nextact.org or (414) 278-7780.