‘Love Is Love Is Love Is Love’

With “Romeo and Juliet,” Shakespeare gave us the archetypal tragic love story that’s been rending audience hearts since the late 16th century. The play was a hit in Shakespeare’s day and its popularity seems destined to endure because the “star-cross’d lovers’” doomed trajectory strikes a basic yet profound chord that resonates across cultures and ages.

Next month, Director Kristin Wolanin and her Country Day troupe will bring the perennial fan favorite to the Steinman Theatre stage for four performances. All four will present a timeless tale of ill-fated love. But, besides featuring sets and costumes evoking the 1950s, two of those performances will tell the story from a less familiar perspective.

For those shows, at 7 p.m. Saturday April 8 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Madison B. ’17 will take the stage as Romeo and the love she and Juliet (Lily D-L. ’17) share will be fervid. It will also be homosexual. The first two performances, at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday, will feature Cole S. ’17 in the Romeo role, with Lily continuing as Juliet.

“Cole and Madison each have their own journey to take, and both explore their own path toward love. I’m proud of the intensity and dedication and thought that both actors have brought to the roles and I think this casting decision will essentially give audiences two plays for the price of one, so to speak,” said Wolanin.

“‘Romeo and Juliet’ is such a great story of teaching people to appreciate the individual,” she continued. “Being open to showcasing two star-crossed love stories speaks volumes about the school and the values it embraces. This production is more than a show of support for the LGBT community at LCDS. The students do a good job of advocating for themselves and one another, but this is the first time they’ve had a project with this kind of substance and reach.”

The spirit that embodies the production was eloquently captured by “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda in a sonnet, and this quatrain in particular: “We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger / We rise and fall and light from dying embers / Remembrances that hope and love last longer / And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love.” Wolanin said that portions of Miranda’s poem will be incorporated into the set itself.

Just as important as what the play is, is what it’s not, Wolanin said.

“Other than changing the pronouns for the Saturday evening and Sunday matinee shows, we’ve stuck to the letter of the text. This production isn’t a cover for some moralistic exhibition,” she said. “We’re just trying to raise awareness and, to the extent that there’s a message we want to convey, it’s simply that people are people and we should love them for who they are.”

“Romeo and Juliet” opens at 7 p.m. Friday, April 7 and runs for three days, with performances at 7 p.m. Saturday, as well as 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $15 at the door, or $10 online.

World Civilizations: Triumph Over the Traditional

On one side of the Upper School hallway in Brenna Stuart’s room, Lexi J. ’19 recognized a phrase from Voltaire’s “Candide” in a 1751 commentary supporting sumptuary laws as a bulwark against “the dregs of the people.”

“That’s so mean,” Lexi said in smiling astonishment.

On the other side of the hallway in Genevieve Munson’s room, freshman Jonah R. handed his teacher the outline he’d made using the critical techniques from the previous day’s class.

“This is going to be a bomb essay,” Jonah said.

Munson scanned the page and nodded approvingly. “I don’t doubt it, young Jonah. I do not doubt it at all,” she said.

Other than being impressive displays of scholarly aptitude, these two scenes would appear to be discrete, disconnected events with no relation to one another.

That appearance would be deceiving.

There’s a common thread that runs across the hall, connecting Munson’s class to Stuart’s, Jonah’s experience to Lexi’s, history to English and freshman year to sophomore year. That thread is World Civilizations.

The two-year, interdisciplinary course serves as an immersive introduction to the humanities in Upper School. While grounding students in the fundamentals, World Civ aims to provide a richer experience than individual English or history classes would by exposing students to texts that span millennia and cultures, but speak to a common human essence.

“Dividing history from literature is a false dichotomy,” said Stuart, who teaches World Civ II along with Emma Miller.

“We’re trying to combine big ideas with the nuts-and-bolts of grammar and effective, engaging writing. The trick is figuring out that balance.

“It’s definitely ambitious, but it works because they’re not just high schoolers,” Stuart continued. “There’s this idea that students that age we should just spoon-feed facts, but facts without context become facts without meaning and just bore these kids.”

Munson, along with Sarah Parker, teaches World Civ I and echoed Stuart’s sentiments.

“Any idea is not an idea in isolation,” Munson said. “Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech isn’t some frozen moment in time.

“I want my students to understand that the paths of English and history are not journeys that take place in isolation. And on the best, most fulfilling days of class, I’m learning shoulder-to-shoulder with my students. Challenging fixed perspectives is always an aim of whatever we’re doing in class,” she said.

The World Civ I curriculum includes The Bible, The Koran, The Dhammapada, “The Odyssey,” “The Republic” and “The Divine Comedy.” World Civ II focuses on the development of modern Europe and the causes and consequences of western dominance. The material that helps illuminate that journey includes works by Shakespeare, Machiavelli, Tolstoy, Camus, Kafka and Garcia Marquez.

“The struggle,” said Munson, “is that there are fun, interesting, applicable elements within great texts, lurking in the background. The challenge is to tease those out and bring them forward so students can engage with them as preparation for thinking and speaking and communicating critically.

“What’s always on the forefront is how to craft good writing, and probably the most fundamental aspect of that is that you have to be a good reader if you ever want to be a good writer,” she said.

The Upper School faculty are hardly alone in cultivating critical thinkers.

“The Middle School sets us up for success,” Munson explained. “The collaboration among and between teachers helps ensure that kids arrive in World Civ I with a strong scaffolding of what they need to know, and that allows me to just build on. We’re trying to foster a critical eye and look at the human experience and develop in students an empathy and understanding.

“There are certain universal themes throughout the great works — One might even say that’s what makes them great,” Munson continued. “But it is a profound experience for students to interact with the Koran and the Tao and ‘The Odyssey’ and books separated by cultures and continents and hundreds or thousands of years and to find, universal, unifying human elements and truths.

Stuart and Munson’s belief in the superiority of the interdisciplinary World Civ model is clear. Munson made equally clear, however, that the point of the class was not to upset the pedagogical apple cart.

“World Civ is not some sort of insurrection against the traditional teaching of English and history. But it is, we think, a natural way of eliminating the more arbitrary barriers between the two disciplines in a way that makes learning the material a uniquely good fit for freshman- and sophomore-age students.”

Stuart said that even within World Civ itself, the aim is to get rid of boundaries and present students with a unified curriculum and more complete learning experience.

“We bring in art history, we bring in various kinds of philosophy, we bring in dangling modifiers and lots of other things. But it never feels like, ‘Now we’re going to do history,’ Stuart said.

“We’re always doing all of it.”

Setting Sail For Social Studies Riches

It’s been a rough couple months for Aidan K. ’26 since he and his shipmates traded their safe, European home for high seas adventure and the boundless promise of the New World.

“I have de-century,” Aidan explained to the class. Teacher Stacey Kubis gently corrected his pronunciation. “Dysentery,” she said. Aidan soldiered on and described the symptoms. “I suffer from stomach cramps and diarrhea,” he said, eliciting peals of laughter from his fellow third-grade explorers.

Aidan shrugged. “I drank some bad water,” he said.

This is just one example of the sharp vicissitudes students have to overcome as Dungeons & Dragons meets social studies, and Kubis brings the Age of Exploration to life as a role playing game. The class is divided into two groups of five students and one group of four. Together they make up the crew of a ship, while individually each child represents a unique character whose strengths and weaknesses are determined by a role of the die.

For example, the Navigator is responsible for keeping the ship on course and adept at reading maps and using an astrolabe, while the Helmsman follows the Navigator’s course, ably steering the ship through foul weather and treacherous seas. These characters will have the highest scores in the Seamanship trait, and among the lowest scores in Negotiation. As situations arise that demand certain skills, the player best suited to dealing with the problem rolls the die that decides the fate of the crew.

Kubis played the role of Buccaneer Dungeon Master and set off loud and impassioned debates when she announced that, after making landfall in the soon-to-be Americas, the explorers beheld a large group of natives eying them from the woods.

“Do you choose to ignore them or engage them?” Kubis asked.

Three tables elected to talk to the natives, while Anna F.’s crew opted to play it cool and ignore them.

“They might be mean,” Anna said. “They might want to kill us!” Sienna C. added. “Yeah, they might be really mean,” Anna clarified.

As of presstime, the third grade’s adventures in the New World continue to unfold, and while we don’t know how this first meeting of Europeans and indigenous peoples will play out, we do know that Aidan is still suffering from dysentery.

“This is a fun way to extend the unit,” Kubis said. “If we didn’t find a way to liven it up, the material tends to come across a little dry. A lot of names and dates and places that don’t necessarily mean much on their own.

“But when we do this,” she continued, “it becomes something real to students.”

UK 2016: ‘What’s Next?’

By Tony A. ’20
Photos by Evie A.’20

After our parents’ bon voyaging concluded, 22 eighth graders boarded vans in early June and headed for the flight that would land 14 hours later on the rain soaked runway of Edinburgh Airport. As we broke through the thick layer of gray clouds, we were greeted by a lush, green landscape whose patchwork of fields of crops was dotted with farm animals (mostly sheep). As picturesque as it was, many of us remarked that the scenery was very similar to that of Lancaster County.

On our short drive to our first destination, we immediately noticed a number of changes from our initial impressions. Driving on the “wrong” side of the road, we were surprised by the rows of coal-stained sandstone buildings and small cottages. Upon entering the city of Edinburgh, our initial impressions went something like, “Wow, this is pretty dreary” or “Why did I travel all the way to see THIS?”

Little did we know that many of us would be reluctant to leave our newfound favorite city. Over the next few days, we spent our time touring, learning, and walking. Those of us with fitness trackers saw that we logged close to, if not more than, 10 miles per day. “Laugh, don’t whine,” Mr. Miller told us before we began, but most of the time we were having too much fun to notice our aching feet anyway.

Edinburgh Castle was among the most intriguing and remarkable sights we saw, however the astonishing view atop Calton Hill gave the castle a run for its money. For many of us, the traditional Scottish dance class was not the most memorable feature of our trip, but it did offer an authentic, proper Scottish experience.

Edinburgh fixed our initial impressions of the U.K. and allowed us to appreciate the lifestyle and society of the Scots. For that reason alone, the capital of Scotland played an integral role in developing our perspective on the rest of our journey.

Destination No. 2 was an 84-mile-long Roman ruin that still wends its way across northern England, almost 2,000 years after it was built. Hadrian’s Wall offered not just a stunning, 360-degree view of the landscape, but an invitation to consider the symbolism and history behind the wall itself. Who would have thought that Roman influence would reach this empty, uninhabited landscape, so far from Rome? Hadrian’s Wall deepened our perspective and encouraged us to analyze our surroundings.

Our first church discovery was the Durham Cathedral. This ancient sandstone building impressed us with its beautiful architecture — not to mention the classic MG car show out front. The magnificently high ceilings and extraordinary amount of detail conveyed a deep sense of craftsmanship, and gave us an appreciation for the 40 years that went into constructing this 1,000-year-old masterpiece.

After Durham, we made another cathedral stop in York. There was no denying the awe we felt before this structure. Even the tallest and most modern skyscrapers fail to make onlookers’ mouths drop, but somehow York Minster was able to do just that.

As we approached the city atop the Romanesque York City walls, the cathedral could be seen looming over the entire city. In fact, this cathedral was so large that it could be seen from almost any part of downtown York. York was among our favorite stops, as this was the city where we had the most free time to explore and shop among the unique storefronts.

Up next was the college town of Cambridge. As we explored the Cambridge campus and metropolitan area, we noticed a change in the daily lifestyle of its residents. As in most college towns, Cambridge offered an atmosphere that was at once historic yet modern. Although we already found Cambridge beautiful, the fact that it was one of the first times the sun came out surely helped form that impression.

Our trip concluded in the city we were initially most excited to see, London. Its world-famous landmarks, including Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace did not disappoint.

But our most notable experience there, other than waiting for a train in the Underground for 45 minutes, had little to do with London itself.

At this point in our trip, most of us were physically exhausted from the constant travel. These few days in London promoted team building and unity among our group because we needed each other to continue. There were times when we struggled to crawl out of bed every morning at 7 o’clock, but your roommate was always there to cheer you on (unless they were still asleep). Although sightseeing and touring was a wonderful experience, London left us with a lesson that would resonate with us far more deeply.

As we prepared to depart from Heathrow, our group’s connection had changed from how it was at the beginning of our journey. Our collective experiences had broadened our perspectives, as well as imparting valuable lessons and experiences we would otherwise not have attained. It would be wrong to assume that I was the only one disappointed to leave, but I couldn’t help but think, “What’s next?”