Stewards Academy go back to the future

Education: Secondary / Sat 14th Mar 2015 at 01:45pm

IN early March, a cast of 50 pupils at Stewards Academy took to the stage to tell a thrilling story of high school hopes and heartbreak. Over four performances of their major production of ‘Back to the 80s’, pupils transported audiences to the era of the Rubik’s Cube, blue eye-shadow, and some of the most popular songs ever written.

Working relationships between pupils of all ages were formed amongst a cast drawn from all years of the school; whilst a production team, band and crew of 30 pupils and staff from a diverse range of departments inspired inter-disciplinary collaboration. The spectacular performances were the culmination of a rigorous six-month rehearsal process, highlighting the importance of hard work and dedication to all those involved. Pupils also developed their self-confidence and teamwork; skills for their future theatrical endeavours and beyond.

This year’s production marks significant new investments in the teaching of performance technique, technical theatre and theatrical design at Stewards Academy; providing a comprehensive experience of theatre production. For example, a recent venture to upgrade the lighting, video projection and special effects technology of the school’s main hall meets its ambition to provide high-quality teaching in technical theatre and produce performances with a new level of professionalism.

The cast performed to over 1000 members of the Harlow community; including over 330 Year 6 pupils from ten Harlow primary schools, who experienced performing arts at Stewards Academy for the first time and paved the way for their future involvement.

The well-attended public performances were testament to an effective pupil-led promotional strategy for the show, including pupil-designed posters and an inclusive ‘sing-along’ event in the central space of the school quad. These initiatives successfully encouraged otherwise reluctant members of the school community to engage with the performing arts, as a performer or audience member. After the final performance, Rhonda Murthar, Headteacher of Stewards Academy, spoke of ‘tears of joy and a hall full of jubilation after a sensational show once again.’

The number of pupils in the audience, both from within and outside of the school community, signifies the support and encouragement that Harlow’s young people have for each other. Many have been inspired to participate in productions in the future. This response demonstrates that ‘Back to the 80s’ leaves a legacy that will see many younger
pupils benefiting from all that the performing arts offers, at Stewards and beyond; and in some ways become part of the landscape of world-class British theatre.

Reflecting on the production, Rhonda Murthar said: ‘The Performing Arts team brings out the very best in young people who showcase their talent on stage. Congratulations to all the performers for what was a highlight of the school year and will live long in the memories of all those privileged to be a part of it.‘

Stewards Back toThis production is an element of the extensive programme of performing arts provision at Stewards Academy, encompassing extra-curricular activities, showcases, concerts, plays and musicals. The school’s tradition of high-quality public performances was recently exemplified by a prestigious ‘First Time Live’ concert in collaboration with City of London Sinfonia, one of the country’s leading professional orchestras. The upcoming introduction of the Stewards Summer Festival will be a celebration of the school’s multi- disciplinary approach to the arts.

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