Lower School grandparents got a special treat to be thankful for last week, when their grandchildren brought them to school to share a morning of songs, classroom visits and, perhaps most important, lunch.
In addition to the usual day-in-the-life series of photos, this edition features Middle School overnight trips, as well as the Montreal and Quebec City voyage. Meanwhile back here at home, the head of school played a little impromptu squash on our newly opened courts. Finally, we present the striking photographs of German international student Max K. ’19. They are images of the school as you’ve never seen it.
In early November, Country Day hosted Fiona Kennedy, the first teacher to visit LCDS as part of our new faculty exchange with Kelvinside Academy in Scotland. “Fiona was the perfect first teacher for the faculty exchange,” said Director of Global Programs Heather Woodbridge. “She’s so instantly warm and open and the kids just loved her. By the end of the week her classes were ending with hugs and group photos. That’s just her.”
Most of Kennedy’s time was spent introducing variations of handball to students of all ages. “Fiona would have fit it well regardless, but being a PE teacher really allowed her to reach all three divisions and experience as broad a classroom experience as you can get,” Woodbridge said.
The PE teacher and handball coach spoke to Cougar News with a thick Scottish brogue, and told a story you’d never believe if it weren’t true:
When Fiona Kennedy couldn’t get two tickets to the 2012 London Olympics, she was disappointed, but had another idea.
The Olympics set aside a certain number of tickets for schools, so while she couldn’t score two for herself, she was able to get 40 for her and a group of students. The only events that hadn’t sold out were basketball and handball, so that’s what they saw.
“I thought the kids would be excited about basketball and not care much about handball because it wasn’t something they were familiar with. But it was the other way around. They loved handball. Loved it.”
The entire trip back from London to Glasgow, her kids were relentless in asking her if the school could start a handball team. Somewhere in the middle of England, she said sure.
“I just thought why not give it a go,” Kennedy told the BBC in 2014.
“And within six weeks we’d entered the Scottish championships, where we came third.”
In the five years since launching the program, Kelvinside’s handball team has won 15 national titles and its players make up a third of the roster for the Scottish national handball squad.
With the team’s ascendency, Kennedy traded her coaching position for a managerial one where she oversees the program as a whole. Finding a new head coach for a team BBC Sport dubbed “a talent factory” was as effortless as it was auspicious. Kennedy’s replacement is Sarah Carrick, whose other gig is playing handball for the British national team.
All of this takes some of the sting out of Kennedy not being able to get those two Olympics tickets for herself back in 2012.
Kennedy’s visit was part of larger faculty exchange program. Last Spring, Learning Specialist Jill Englert kicked off the exchange when she spent a week teaching at Kelvinside and staying as a guest in Kennedy’s home. Englert returned the favor when Kennedy arrived stateside, setting aside time for a full Pennsylvania Dutch experience.
“People in the audience will go, ‘Oh my God, that’s my life.’ Part of the reason I love this play so much is that it’s just real life. These scenes can happen and people will be able to relate to it.”
For her latest production, director Kristin Wolanin chose John Cariani’s “Almost, Maine,” a play that has resonated deeply with her from the first time she saw it.
“It was just a story of love. The difference with this one, what sets it apart for me, is that what happens in the play can actually happen in real life.”
Wolanin isn’t the only one bitten by the “Almost, Maine” bug. According to Playbill, it’s been the most produced play in North American high schools twice since its 2004 debut.
Showtimes are 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 2-4, as well as a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday. Tickets are $5 in advance and $7 at the door.
“Of everything we’ve done since I started, this play has been the most challenging one for the actors,” Wolanin said. “There’s nothing for them to hide behind. Other shows had lots of farce or iambic pentameter or something else that interposed itself between the actors’ real lives and their performances and allowed them to do a great show without necessarily revealing all of themselves.
“This is asking them to just be real. That’s the greatest challenge for any actor and it’s been hard for them,” Wolanin said. “I approach directing from an actor’s perspective. I’ve walked in their shoes. I can talk to them as an actor and I don’t ask them to do anything I couldn’t do myself.”
“Almost, Maine” is a romantic comedy that consists of 11 short scenes that all take place the same night in Maine, under the Northern Lights. One consequence of eschewing the traditional three act structure for 11 scenes that are both interconnected yet discrete, is that the play features more than a dozen “main” characters.
To meet this challenge — while meeting and exceeding the company’s own high standards — Wolanin called upon the largest cast and crew in recent Country Day history, if not ever: 47 students, from sixth-12th grade. This group includes 14 actors, five of whom have never appeared in one of the large, semiannual theater productions, and a sixth who’ll be speaking his first lines in front of an audience at Thursday’s premiere.
Everyone in Wolanin’s theater gang has to pull double duty: Every actor takes a turn bringing a show to life from backstage or the lighting booth and every crew member eventually struts and frets his hour upon the stage at least once. (Hopefully with minimal fretting.)
“If you’re in the company, you’re in the cast and the crew. Everything we do is about always presenting audiences with quality work, and I think it makes actors better if they have an appreciation for what’s going on offstage. I also love having a big enough company to give every student a chance to be on stage,” Wolanin said.
“Almost, Maine” Cast & Crew
PETE — Tristan H.
GINETTE, GAYLE — Clare J.
EAST, RANDY — Sam D.
GLORY — Kendall K.
JIMMY — Alex A.
SANDRINE, RHONDA — Delphi A.
WAITRESS — Sadi S.
MARVALYN, HOPE — Malia C.
STEVE — Theo Z.
LENDALL — Thomas W.
CHAD, DAVE — David W.
PHIL — Christopher M.
MARCI — Courtney C.
Director: Kristin Wolanin
Production Stage Manager: Kylie D.
Deck Carpenter and RUN: Tessa B.
Sound Designer and RUN: Justin K.
Props Master and RUN: Linnea W.
Props Crew: Mira H., Ryan M., Noah S., Larry L. and Lora S.
Props Run Crew: Mira H. and Noah S.
Set Crew/Stage Crew: Sophia H., Tessa B., Maria H., Janani I., and Laurel M.
Publicity Chief: Danny K.-B.
Publicity Crew: Piper S., Ben K., Jay N., and Gaby N.
Costume Mistresses and RUN: Katrina F.
Costume Crew: Julia N., Sophie M., Julia B., Paityn N., Adrian W. and Sarah H.
Costume Run: Julia B., Adrian W. and Julia N.
Master Electrician and RUN: Hayden F.
Box Office Managers: Amelia L. and Mae B.
Box Office Assistant: Tess M. and Maddie B.
House Manager: William H.
Ushers: Ryan M., Paityn N., Tess M., Piper S., Lora S., Ben K., Larry L. and Jay N.
There are a few unfailing signs that fall has arrived: the leaves changing, Linus waiting faithfully for the Great Pumpkin, and costumed seniors and Lower Schoolers parading hand-in-hand through the halls. Add to that Laura Trout’s spooky science spectacular in kindergarten and the hauntingly heartwarming Halloween Festival. A warning to the cute-sensitive: This slideshow contains adorable images.