An inside look into the living literature program that aims to enhance reading comprehension with plays the school puts on. This partnership between both the English and Drama department hopes students will learn and grow.
The close of Great Gatsby opens the door to the start of new beginnings. It was the beta run for the dawn of a new program: living literature. Living literature aims to enhance English reading comprehension by having the drama program put on plays based on the books that English students at RHS are studying everyday.
Books like Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird are a few examples of plays students can expect to see in the future.
With the goal of helping book comprehension by bringing literature to life, English teacher Jaimee Handling feels that seeing the characters come to life adds depth and excitement for student understanding.
“For kids who have a hard time visualizing what they’re reading, it’s great to be able to provide them with a picture. A physical representation allows them to visualize the descriptions on the page and connect further with the text,” Handling said. “My students had already read the book when we went in to watch a sampling from the play. When they saw the billboard for Dr TJ Eckleberg, many students gasped in awe of how real it became. It definitely raised their engagement and excitement for the book.”
In order to do the English classes justice, the first couple rehearsals for the Great Gatsby were spent sitting together, listening to the audiobook.
Sophomore Evan Oukrop starred as Tom Buchanan in October. After reading the book, the act of bringing it to life on stage felt easier.
“I’ve read the book before – it’s a bit hard to digest. All of it is very description heavy, so to have it brought to life on stage, I think it’s a bit easier to break down,” Oukrop said.
Ben Lucia, the sophomore who shined as Nick Carraway, sees living literature as something he himself can relate to.
“Sometimes I prefer to watch a movie instead, or read a book about a certain script. I don’t know, reading isn’t really my thing,” Lucia said. “Seeing it happen on stage or seeing it happen on a screen- it helps. I don’t know if it will necessarily make them understand [the book] more, but I do think it would be more engaging and they would probably want to understand it more.”
Although the program was pitched as benefiting English students, it would seem unfitting to not mention the benefits drama students receive. In the audience was a handful of English classes, but the most important class in there was the beginning drama class.
Oukrop feels that by putting on these scenes for both English and drama students, it will enhance the interaction the drama program receives.
“I think since this is such a well known story and seeing like, “wow that was really good” and “hey, this actually looks like a lot of fun. Maybe I want to do that,” Oukrop said. “I think especially for the beginning [drama] students who came and saw this, it shows what we do here and the level of performance that we have here at Roseville. It kind of inspires them like, ‘Hey I want to do that too’.”
For the cast, this was their first performance in front of a crowd. Lucia saw it as very beneficial for cleaning up the show before opening night.
“For Gatsby, it was pretty nerve-wracking because we hadn’t done a show yet, but I thought it was good and the classes liked it. We also got feedback on our acting so I thought that was helpful,” Lucia said. “Some people seemed to enjoy it, but it gave us insight and it gave them insight as well.”
As the program begins to enrich and develop, Handling is hopeful for the increasing interaction students can have with in-class novels.
“I’d love to see this become a vital part of our learning,” Handling said. “One of the standards is to experience a text in multiple forms and modalities. This is a great way to provide that opportunity for both students and teachers.”