High School Events

And Then There Were None: The History

of a Most Dramatic Twelve Year Journey

     On Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, May 29, 30 & 31, the Merriconeag Waldorf High School senior class will be performing Agatha Christie's murder mystery, And Then There Were None (based on her 1939 novel originally titled, Ten Little Indians). Like many dramatic productions, the essence and highlight of this play is the ensemble work of the cast. However, this cast of twelve has a distinct advantage in terms of ensemble work, for the majority of the class have acted together in a play every year since first grade.

     One of the hallmarks of Waldorf education is that from grades 1-8, students stay together as a group under the care and guidance of a single class teacher. Students have a variety of teachers for special subjects (French, German, handwork, woodwork, chorus, movement, instrumental music etc.) but the class teacher guides them through the traditional core academic subjects and through their school life, from the age of seven right up through the end of middle school. Along the way, drama is an important part of the Waldorf curriculum. Each year, every class performs a play that is chosen to integrate with that year’s curricular themes and topics. The sequence of themes echoes the students’ own development as they progress through childhood. In first grade, the play is based on a fairy tale; this class performed The Frog Prince in 2002. In second grade, classes perform a fable of a Saint or other remarkable human being. In third grade, a story out of the Old Testament; fourth grade, a Norse myth. This class performed the beautiful story of The Death of Baldur. In fifth grade, teachers choose from a wide range of subjects out of ancient Indian, Persian, Egyptian, Mesopotamian or Greek culture. Jason and the Golden Fleece was the play this class performed. In sixth grade the plays are often out of Roman or Medieval History (Parzival and the Holy Grail); seventh grade the Renaissance (Eleanor of Aquitaine). Shakespeare is a common choice for grade eight, and this class performed Twelfth Night.

     In our Waldorf High School, the ninth and tenth graders usually perform a play together. This class took part in Thornton Wilder's Our Town. In their junior year, the class took up a Medieval mystery drama called The Shepherds Play, and that brings us to the suspense filled murder mystery on which they are currently working.

     Waldorf education believes that drama is a powerful part of the humanities curriculum, the life of the school, and the growth of each child involved. Classroom lessons take on new meaning when the students themselves bring them to life onstage. Younger students who attend the performances begin to look ahead with anticipation at future subjects, while older students revisit and make connections with their past studies. For teachers, casting the play is an opportunity to present an appropriate challenge to each student. While one student will play a character with a personality like her own, another may benefit from playing someone very different from herself. In fact, one unique aspect of drama in a Waldorf school is that the plays are not only for the best actors. Every student has a role in every play every year. This total participation extends to all of the arts in a Waldorf school. Drawing, painting, modeling, instrumental music, singing and speech are done by all. No auditioning, no waiting to see the call back list, no feeling that the arts are only for the artistically gifted.

     Class plays not only require each student to stretch as a performer, but also require all the actors to work together and to create something bigger than themselves. Students assist with costumes, sets, and lights, and productions usually include group singing, dancing, and performing on the recorder. As performers, Waldorf students learn the increasingly rare skill of using their own voices and bodies to connect with audiences, without relying on stage microphones and booming PA systems. Onstage and in the moment, these students are electric, if not wired.

     Just a few weeks away from their high school graduation, as these twelve actors received their parts and began memorizing their lines they were like a long time theater company. The play is brand new, but the collaborative work of creating theater magic is old hat for this troupe. They inhabit the stage as a unit, and they say things like, "Remember back in third grade how we..." This experience allows the work to go so much deeper, for the benefit of audience and actor alike.

     Please join us for a night of theater as the Class of 2013 presents And Then There Were None, a dramatic journey twelve years in the making. David Barham, Director