In-Class Arts and Drama This Spring: The Stories on Stage and Mixed Media Electives

Two new electives, Stories on Stage and Mixed Media, will be offered at Stuyvesant this spring, giving students a chance to explore their creative side.

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By Sophia Jin

Not many Stuyvesant students currently consider themselves artists, but this may change with the introduction of two new spring electives. Centered around the language arts and the visual arts respectively, Stories on Stage and Mixed Media are two new electives being offered for the spring semester. Stories on Stage dives into the history and composition of theater traditions from around the world, while Mixed Media explores the uses and combinations of different art mediums to create projects in a variety of styles.

Stories on Stage:

Stories on Stage is an upcoming English elective taught by English teacher Victoria Crutchfield, who also teaches Freshman Composition and American Literature. The course will be offered to juniors and seniors and will focus on a variety of plays spanning diverse genres, cultures, and historical periods. It will also explore the roles that costume, props, and set play in establishing the plot in theater productions.

Students are excited to have a new elective taught by Crutchfield. “[Crutchfield’s American Literature class] has actually been the first time in my years at Stuyvesant that I really look forward to an ELA class,” junior Daniel Wu said. “The effort Ms. Crutchfield puts into her class makes me motivated to join her elective.”

In Stories on Stage, students will be studying a vast catalog of plays, dramas, and dance productions. In studying cultures through the lens of theater, students may learn about classical Greek tragedy, Japanese nō, Chinese zaju, 17th-century French and Spanish drama, classical Italian opera, modern realism, epic Brechtian drama, and devised theater traditions. These are theater traditions from across history that students are not typically introduced to in high school literature classes. “I want for my students to get a taste of some of the diverse theater traditions of the world and of history and not just focus on contemporary American plays,” Crutchfield said.

The content of each class period will vary between discussions of different kinds of media and opportunities to write and perform. “We will be alternating between discussing texts and other materials and working on creative projects,” Crutchfield said. Summative assessments will include performances of scenes, writing plans for a scene, creating costume designs for hypothetical productions, monologue writing, and writing reflections.

Students interested in theater may have already taken the Acting elective taught by English teacher Julie Sheinman, but Stories on Stage differentiates itself from Acting with its focus on the elements of theater production that support actors’ performances. “Stories on Stage is a theater elective that focuses on the big picture of theater,” Crutchfield said. The vitality of costumes, masks, makeup, movement, and stage space in creating plot and emotion will be discussed extensively.

Stories on Stage will be a class that is open and accessible to everyone, even those who know absolutely nothing about theater. “It’s a good class for people who are interested in plays, who like to read things that are not novels, who are interested in different artistic forms of storytelling through visual arts, and who are interested in history,” Crutchfield added. 

Of course, Stories on Stage may be particularly interesting to any students passionate about theater, whether they are involved in extracurricular activities such as STC or SING! or seek to write their own play one day. The class is also a great opportunity for students to discover a passion for theater. It may be of particular interest to any students who enjoyed reading classic plays like Macbeth in their freshman and sophomore years.

Crutchfield also noted that the curriculum is not set in stone; student voices will play an important role in shaping the curriculum of Stories on Stage. “I’m going to be open to student interest to drive a lot of  [Stories on Stage], especially in the first semester that I’m offering it,” Crutchfield said. “So it'll partly depend on what my students come in saying they want to do.”

Students are intrigued by the novelty of having a say in the curriculum of their electives. “There's an opportunity here to shape a brand new elective, an opportunity that is somewhat unprecedented in our Stuy[vesant] careers,” junior David Chen said.

Overall, Stories on Stage is a unique elective because of its strong focus on the details of theater production and rare reception to student feedback. The elective is a golden opportunity for students to branch out and discover new passions and interests, even if they have no prior experience with theater. 

Mixed Media:

Mixed Media is a new art elective offered to sophomores and juniors and taught by art teacher Jane Karp. The class will interact with diverse mediums—including watercolor, sculpture, and monoprint—through the creation of mixed media works of art. 

This experimentation with different mediums is a major focus of Mixed Media’s projects. The course will offer students an opportunity to explore art techniques they may have glossed over in Art Appreciation. “We’ll probably be working more with traditional two-dimensional and three-dimensional works from painting, collage, different types of printmaking, and sculptural projects,” Karp explained. “It’s a chance to explore processes and try out new materials.” 

Students will also learn art-making techniques to create a diverse array of projects. “We'll have a whole unit on printmaking, trying different types of printmaking as well as sort of combining collage, printmaking, and art book making,” Karp said. “We’ll still be building on basic drawing skills and painting skills, but with the focus of combining materials and pen with watercolor, chalk, pastel, and paints.” 

Students will spend an overwhelming majority of their time in Mixed Media working on major art projects. “A typical day will see students coming in and getting to work on their own artwork,” Karp explained. “There’ll be days when I demonstrate techniques, or we will have thorough discussions on students’ presentations, but mostly this class is going to be studio time.”

Mixed Media is unique from other art electives in that it eliminates the high-stakes nature of an AP art class. This allows students to better explore their creativity. “We offer Painting, which is much more narrowly focused. We have [AP Studio Art], which overlaps to some extent, but it's really portfolio-building. This class won't have the pressure of the AP portfolio review,” Karp explained. Indeed, the focus of Mixed Media is on providing students with the ability to explore mediums they are unfamiliar with. “It's much more exploratory for students who just want to have more art-making experience in their [time at] Stuyvesant,” Karp said.

Students are excited by the variety of mediums to explore in the course. Junior Anna Lau believes that Mixed Media's various mediums allow students to truly explore the humanities in such a STEM-focused school. “At Stuy, we offer a lot of science electives, and I think it is nice that we are branching out in terms of those related to the humanities as well,” Lau said. “I know a lot of people that I think will definitely be interested in taking this class.”

Thus, Mixed Media will provide students with the opportunity to truly explore different styles of art in a stress-free, project-driven environment. In a school fueled by academics, Mixed Media will allow anyone interested in art to explore their passions alongside the sciences.