By: Tracie Carter, RLS Media
Images: Photojournalist Mecca Davidson
As art is a universal language, the 18-month lapse of in-person performances due to the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the Arts High School community. -Principal Devonne Gorman
Principal Devonne Gorman and Arts High School Drama Instructor Ms. Elena Dones welcomed the community back to in-person theater productions with its first drama production since the COVID-19 pandemic not only shut down the first school of the visual and performing arts in the nation but all schools, in New Jersey, back in March 2020.
The government-ordered school shutdown aimed to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
All Newark Public Schools resumed in-person instruction last fall 2021, but in early January 2022, Superintendent Roger Leon ordered district schools to switch back to online learning for a while because of an upsurge in COVID infections in Newark.
Superintendent Leon’s schools were back in-person by mid-January, although with enhanced COVID testing options and additional safety measures.
Ms. Dones and her students at Arts High had become experts at pivoting quickly, a skill they had to master as the pandemic started in March 2020. They suddenly had to learn to use Webex and other video-conferencing software, so drama majors could continue to interact and create virtual performances.
As curtains rose on Thursday evening for the first time inside the building’s state-of-the-art experimental theater (black-box space), Dones and her Junior Drama majors devised an original play titled “Justice at an Impasse.”
“To open the newly renovated Experimental Theater to live audiences during Arts in Our Schools Month has been reinvigorating and encouraging. -Principal Devonne Gorman
Theaters/Drama Instructor Elena Dones briefly explained “Justice at an Impasse” as the following:
“The play takes us to a world where reality and imagination are a blur, and our perceptions of reality are on trial.
Using themes of injustice, truth, communication, and perception, the cast determines who really is on trial and for what reasons.
All is not as it seems as details of the case unfold, and the systems we depend on are questioned. Who is wrongly accused?
Who is wrongly convicted of a crime they did not commit?
We followed the characters to learn what led them to the land of Impasse and enjoy this one-act play entirely created by the Drama class of 2023”.
For the Junior student performers, the bunch were first-year students during the in-person pandemic shutdown. There was that one week, back in March 2020, when everything shifted.
One moment everyone was at school, going to class and hanging out with friends, and then suddenly, they were at home, social-distancing and trying to figure out how to learn theater arts/drama through online learning.
Principal Gorman is excited that students can once again safely enjoy the full effect of their artistic crafts as they ‘aspire to inspire.
“We are -yet- again able to bring artistic expression and creativity to the community and reclaim our role to serve as the hub of arts education in the city of Newark,” Principal Gorman said.
The Arts High School Media Arts/Television Broadcasting Department was on hand Saturday for a recording of the production.