This year, the Performing Arts faculty is making efforts to attract more students to its department in order to create a more inclusive environment and better reflect the talent and diversity of the student body.
The department is also trying to ward off the presumption that getting involved with the performing arts is intimidating or impossible, especially for students who have never been involved with the arts.
Performing Arts Department Head Anne Scarbrough explained that she felt the department was creating a “legacy situation,” in which only the girls who start performing during their first few years at Marlborough feel as though they can be involved in the performing arts. Scarbrough explained that the department wants to send the message that every Marlborough girl is welcome to participate in the performing arts.
“Our programs are going to be bigger and more fulfilling for all of us the more types of thinking and points of view that we have adding to the creative mind of the pieces we do in music, dance and theater,” Scarbrough said.
With preparations for the All School Musical, Into the Woods in full swing (with performances on Nov. 20, 21, and 22), the department has been utilizing the musical as an opportunity to reach out to more students. In order to create a less intimidating environment for new and younger students, the theater program held its first-ever audition workshop during the first week of school. The workshop was open to all students, regardless of how long they had been involved in the performing arts at Marlborough. Local guest artists came to lead the two-day workshop by teaching the students how to act on stage confidently, how to execute monologues and how to interact with an accompanist.
“We wanted the girls to know that they would all be treated equally because these guest artists didn’t know who was new to the program and who wasn’t,” Scarbrough said.
The Performing Arts faculty felt that the audition workshop helped make new participants in the program feel welcome. Scarbrough explained that in years past, while there was a high participation rate amongst Middle School students in the Middle School Play, many did not feel comfortable auditioning for the All School Play or All School Musical. However, this year, after the audition workshop, the department saw a lot more Middle School students audition for the All School Musical.
Sarah ’15, who is a part of the theater program and will be in Into the Woods next month, has seen an increase in the number of girls who are participating in the musical this year. She noted that she believes the audition workshop was a particularly beneficial addition.
“I think that it really helped even for students who have auditioned for Marlborough productions in the past,” Sarah said.
Sarah mentioned that a lot of the girls who participated in the workshop showed up to auditions and are now a part of the musical.
“It gave us time to bond with other people that are interested in theater, which is always a really important factor of any production,” she added.
According to Scarbrough, the audition workshop was just the first step in the Performing Arts Department’s plan to create a more inclusive atmosphere. The department is encouraging all girls in grades 9-12 to participate in the Austin Wilson Shakespeare Competitions in November and February, for example. They are also advertising that girls can play a fall sport and participate in the Drama Ensemble Play during the second semester, or participate in the All School Play in addition to playing a spring sport. There are also a variety of extracurricular options and electives for students to take if they don’t wish to take a full sequence of theater classes, including the Improv Techniques class that is open to all Upper School students, the A Cappella Club and the Community Chorus, which meets just once a week.