Joey Shapiro, MS Teacher
Enjoy a short Q&A with our Performing Arts Director, Lisa Ehrlich-Menard and Middle School Humanities teacher, Joey Shapiro to learn more about Ms. Ehrlich-Menard and the upcoming Class of 2023 Operetta—Freaky Friday!
Mr. Shapiro: What have you enjoyed most about your first semester at Bernard Zell?
Ms. Ehrlich-Menard: In my fifteen years of teaching, I've never been in a place where the faculty and staff not only like each other but truly support each other in enriching the holistic experience of our students while at school. For example, the degree to which colleagues have stepped up to make Freaky Friday, the 2023 Morton Reisman Operetta, a reality by helping students rehearse, create sets and props, learn choreography and sing in Hebrew has been incredible. Also, coming from teaching high school, the ways in which colleagues have helped me learn how to best reach younger students has likewise been tremendous. Who knew that fifth graders love playing games that mimic silly animal noises?
Mr. Shapiro: Speaking of Operetta, how have you seen students take on the challenge of staging a musical?
Ms. Ehrlich-Menard: In past teaching and theater positions, the people in the room have opted in, making choices to participate as a professional or extracurricular activity. At Bernard Zell, Operetta is a cornerstone of the eighth-grade experience, and we ask students to dive in and make it happen. Some of the most magical moments have taken place over the months of rehearsals, as I've watched students push past their personal boundaries and put themselves out there in commendable, impressive ways. I think about the kid who couldn't sing in front of me merely two months ago, who now doesn't balk and is belting it out in front of the entire cast; or the students who swore they couldn't dance and now know intricate choreography they learned from their peers.
Mr. Shapiro: What do you see as the major value of theater education at the middle-school level?
Ms. Ehrlich-Menard: When kids' brains and bodies stop being their own and they're so worried about what others think of them, theater education benefits them in twofold ways: first, despite the chemical and societal impulses to guard their authentic selves and edit every move they make, theater by its nature gives them license to do the opposite, to play and explore and challenge mores and norms; secondly, the literal job of theater is to hold a mirror up to society and allows participants to experience someone else's story and see the world from a new perspective. The need for empathy is paramount in theater and can trickle out to their lives in the broader world.