Getting into the Newsies spirit are (left to right): Laurie Fletcher and Barbie Barbara, Maitland Middle School language arts teachers; Stefanie Shames, then principal and now head of leadership development for Orange County Public Schools; and Dawn Dunham, the civics teacher who entered into the collaboration with the arts center.
with complimentary tickets to see Newsies. Wearing newsboy caps and period clothing, the youngsters sold copies of their paper before performances, raising more than $500 for Broadway Care/Equity Fights AIDS. “There were patrons thinking these were the kids from the show,” Dunham says. After the curtain dropped, students chatted with the cast backstage. Actors came to the school to teach Newsies dances, while Brazil visited to discuss theater and character development. The language arts teachers with whom Dunham was “team teaching” at the time also integrated the project into their classes — Laurie Fletcher for Newsies and Barbie Barbara for The Sound of Music. “Anytime you do something like this, it brings the curriculum to life,” says Dr. Stefanie Shames, who was principal of Maitland Middle then and now oversees leadership development for Orange County Public Schools. “It wasn’t just studying a time period anymore. They could relate to real people during that time.” Just ask Lucy Bosses, who was in Dunham’s class during Newsies and attended a large-scale musical for the first time. Now a student at the Winter Park High School 9th Grade Center, she recalls the experience as a highlight of a civics class in which she was always creating. “I think it gave us a better understanding of how people acted and spent their normal days,” Lucy says. During the following FAIRWINDS Broadway in Orlando™ season, Dunham and Brazil used The Sound of Music — set in 1938 Austria — to teach students about different 14
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forms of government and the rise of Nazism and Adolf Hitler. Lucy’s younger sister, Katie, had Dunham for civics that year, and helped create posters exploring the lives of the musical’s major characters. The posters, which were displayed at the arts center during the show’s run, helped the eighth grader understand the people and the issues on which The Sound of Music was based. “I’m a visual learner,” Katie says. Brazil's younger son, Dylan, was also a member of Dunham's civics class. But Dunham’s collaboration with Brazil wasn’t limited to her own students. In November 2015, all of Maitland Middle’s seventh-graders attended a daytime School Series performance of Warriors Don’t Cry, the story of the Little Rock Nine. The play was based on a memoir by Melba Pattillo Beals, one of the students who, in 1957, risked their lives to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Dunham’s students, like civics students everywhere, still learn the mechanics of how a bill becomes law. But, through their exposure to theatrical productions, they also learn why those laws are needed, and how societal wrongs are redressed. The topic comes alive in a way that lectures and charts could never replicate. As for Brazil, she hopes that by making theater part of the curriculum, she can help foster another generation of theatergoers. “At the end of the day, I want to create memories for kids in theater,” she says. “I want to create future audience members — to change somebody’s mind about how they think and feel.”