The drama activities at St. Stephen’s Academy fulfill the desires of many students to act in a quality, enjoyable production. We believe drama also enhances the rhetoric skills we seek to build. We offer all these productions through the principles of Phil. 4:8, dwelling on what is worthwhile and noble.
Performing arts are highly valued at St. Stephen’s. The performing arts reflect and comment upon the beauty, variety, and complexity of all God’s creation. In presenting dramatic or music programs, we seek to develop each student’s technical abilities in a variety of media, while giving them an opportunity to develop their own style and ‘voice’. Students learn initially through guided imitation; the skills of observation, imitation and interpretation are usefully applied in many other areas of study, including science and literature and language learning.
Dramatic and musical arts seek to present, at every grade level, a wide variety of material that is both educational and entertaining. We seek to introduce students to the influential artists of Western Civilization and their famous works. While our fundamental focus is on classical works, valuable educational material that is more modern or cultural may be included in our presentations. The majority of the dramatic presentations will be part of an after school, extracurricular program.
SSA drama productions are a “window” for our community into our life as a school, so that the audience can understand something of our values and priorities as an educational institution. They are also a source of delight and amusement to those who attend. Some of the guiding principles in selecting plays include:
St. Stephen’s Academy yearly productions include an Upper School play and a Lower School play.
Mock trial is the high school student’s opportunity to take the classroom exercises of the dialectic and rhetoric years and use them in a public setting which requires decorum, quick thinking, and confident delivery. Using the skills of critical reading, logic, research, constitutional and legal knowledge, writing, and oratory, students push themselves in mind, body, and soul to prepare for two courtroom trial competitions. In each competition, their team has several opportunities to play both plaintiff/prosecution and defense. They always argue both sides of each mock trial case.
For two months before each competition, team members teach one another new concepts, write their own speeches, and meet often as lawyer-witness pairs to push toward more careful reasoning and the probing arc of questions which will bring that reasoning to light in the courtroom. Held accountable by their coaches and fellow team members, they also train to minimize their human weaknesses: laziness, time management, insecurity, pride, and fear. Instead of burdens, each participant comes to the tense moments of competition with a determination to listen carefully and to clearly, logically tell a story using questions (lawyers) or narrative answers (witnesses). The mock trial competition is a culminating academic moment for students in which they see the real-life integration of the academic rigors and virtues pursued at St. Stephen’s.
The St. Stephen’s Academy string ensemble began in 2006. It was student led for several years, and is now directed by our music teacher. This program fits into our school’s emphasis on music and the arts, and our ethic of learning from the great artistic achievements of the past. Most of the music the ensemble plays is quartet music by composers like Beethoven and Bach. The ensemble also accompanies the hymns sung by the student body during assembly. They perform at school functions, such as the Christmas program and poetry recitation nights. The St. Stephen’s Academy string ensemble brings students together from both the Lower and Upper Schools.
At St. Stephen’s Academy we participate in the NEA sponsored competition, Poetry Out Loud. This is a national poetry recitation competition for grades 7-12. The finals are held in Washington, D.C., and the winner is awarded $20,000. We participate in this competition because of the way it asks students to engage language. Ultimately, the competition is not simply about memorization, but communication of meaning. Poetry is language at its most heightened form, and an intimate engagement with poetry invites students to engage language at the highest level. The actual presentation gives students the public speaking experience that we are seeking to develop as a part of our rhetoric program. In our first year participating in the competition we had a student move on past the regional competition to compete at the state level.