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Editors Note: UW-Eau Claire student Dominique Sicard, a student teacher at North High School, will be in Risinger's classroom Nov. 8-11 at 2 p.m. Rehearsals for the public performance of North High School's "Anatomy of Gray" will be held from 3-4 p.m. Nov. 8-12 in the North auditorium. UW-Eau Claire students will be working with North students at those rehearsals.

Collaboration with high school theater department results in unique learning experiences

RELEASED: Nov. 5, 2010

EAU CLAIRE — Theater students from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire have been helping actors from North High School prepare for the Wisconsin High School Forensic Association theater competition. Students from North are in the second round of competition and have an opportunity to advance to the state level.

The collaboration coincided with the performance of "Anatomy of Gray," staged last month at UW-Eau Claire under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Chapman, assistant professor of theatre arts at UW-Eau Claire. North High School teacher Lucas Risinger's students are performing the same work for the WHSFA.

According to Risinger, a 2002 UW-Eau Claire English education graduate, it was a coincidence that both instructors chose the same play this year, even though Chapman has attended play rehearsals at North High in the past. Chapman and Risinger met through the WHSFA and now share hosting duties of the WHSFA sectional theater competition. They compared notes and decided to capitalize on an opportunity to provide a series of teachable moments to students from both schools.

"We thought it would be a great opportunity for the high school students and UW-Eau Claire students to learn from one another," Chapman said. "It is very useful for the college students to try to teach the things they think they know. I find that having to teach something always immediately reveals to you what you don't know."

Chapman was also invited to Risinger's class to teach a theater history lesson. Chapman brought a student from her "Teaching Theatre Methods" class to observe. The teachers hope to continue this collaboration so future educators can see methods in practice rather than just in theory, and high school students can be exposed to college level theater production and possibly be inspired and motivated to go into the creative arts.

"It's really been a unique experience for all of us, and I'm so grateful that we get to share a wonderful play with more people," said Risinger. "I have gained so much theatrical knowledge as a result of this work. I get a chance to teach and to learn at the same time."

Risinger has sponsored student teachers and a teaching assistant from UW-Eau Claire in his theater classes for the past three years. One of Chapman's students, Dominique Sicard, of Neenah, is currently a student teacher in Risinger's North High classroom and serves as assistant director and costume designer for "Anatomoy of Gray." She has observed the development of her students' confidence and abilities through the partnership.

"The dedication and extra time they have put into the process is amazing. They've come into school for morning rehearsals, sometimes as early as 5:30 a.m.," Sicard said. "One student even took it upon himself to learn the Kaddish (a Jewish mourning prayer recited in Hebrew)."

Chapman invited Risinger's students to a rehearsal for "Anatomy of Gray" at UW-Eau Claire in October to observe her student actors and work on techniques and play analysis with them. Each North student met with the university cast member who played his or her character to share ideas and ask each other questions.

"What really impressed me with the North students was that after the experience they did not simply mimic what the university actors were doing," said Sicard. "They worked hard to keep the characters their own while using the information they received from their university experience."

Chapman sees the exchange as an exciting service-learning opportunity for university students. It's a chance for university students to go into a high school classroom and educate and inspire young people, and to help them work on their craft.

"Our collaboration has resulted in a really neat high school production that has a chance of going on to the last level of competition."

Risinger is grateful for the expertise he and his students have gained and hopes some of his students will go on to major in theatre arts at UW-Eau Claire.

"It has been an extremely beneficial endeavor. Dr. Chapman and I have developed professionally as a result. She makes me a better director and teacher."

A public performance of "Anatomy of Gray" by Risinger's students will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 17 at North High School.



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