For their final projects in Advanced Acting, students at West Hartford’s Hall High School spent an entire day as characters in the ‘Painting Project.’
Submitted by Jenny Bronson, Hall High School
Hall High School juniors and seniors enrolled in advanced acting with Mr. Sean Harris have engaged in several unique presentations that constitute their final project for the school year.
On Wednesday, May 20, 11 senior acting students took part in Fictional Character Day, an assignment that culminated in each of them being completely immersed in the role of a fictional character for the duration of the school day. For example, senior Remony Perlman was not Remony Perleman on May 20; instead she was Pippi Longstocking in every manner — her appearance, her voice, her interactions with everyone around her.
The day also saw Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmations (Hannah Bennett), Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird (Sarah Rollins) and Tom Bombadill from The Lord of the Rings book The Fellowship of the Ring (Benjamin Astrachan), among others, walking the halls of Hall High School.
Students took their roles very seriously, not even breaking character for conversations with friends or sometimes, even teachers. Guidelines have been established to ensure the day runs smoothly with little disruption to classrooms, however. There were certainly many double-takes happening in the hallways, though, as The Incredible Hulk (Ogadinma Ikani) and Carrie from Stephen King’s Carrie (Rosie Coursey) make their way through throngs of students, completely in character and paying no mind to the wide-eyed gazes of their peers.
“This is not dress up,” says Harris. “It’s complete immersion.” To prepare for Fictional Character Day, seniors research their chosen character through the primary literary source, as well as several other literary sources. They document the process of bringing their character to life with a 14-day journal in addition to other key steps that make up the project.
Thirteen Hall juniors also had their chance to display their advanced acting skills during what Harris calls the Painting Project. On Wednesday, June 3, 13 juniors were immersed in character throughout the first floor of Hall High School, on sets they constructed themselves. Each of the students chose a painting they are passionate about or feel strongly connected to, and created a fictional back story for the character in the painting. They brought their painting to life by installing their set in the hallways of the building and remaining in character throughout the school day, thereby creating a “living museum.”
“This represents the final for my advanced junior acting students,” said Harris. “It’s interdisciplinary — it’s acting, it’s art; they’re constructing the world of their painting from scratch. It’s going to be great. They’ll be immersed in the world of a painting for the whole day.”
The 13 juniors are enrolled in Specialized Performance Studies with Harris. They were in character from 7:30 a.m. until school was dismissed at 12:48 p.m.