Monday, March 15, 2010

Take 2: Philadelphia Academies Students Continue to Pursue Cultural Treasures

On Tuesday March 2, a group of tenth and eleventh graders from the Academies’ Culinary Arts and Hospitality program participated in their second session in the Cultural Treasure Hunt series. 

Students, teachers and Philadelphia Academies personnel participate in the Cultural Treasure Hunt on a volunteer basis after a full day of school or work. The programs usually start in the late afternoon and conclude around 9 pm, illustrating that our students and adult staffers are really passionate in the pursuit of knowledge and culture.

This session of the Cultural Treasure Hunt began with a visit to the Marriott at 12th and Market for a behind the scenes tour of the hotel’s rooms and meeting with two of the chefs on staff. Following the tour, dinner was served in the hotel’s Restaurant, 13. Hector, a Culinary Arts student, reviewed the dinner menu for me: prime rib, broiled tilapia, mashed potatoes, assorted vegetables and cheesecake for dessert.  He particularly “enjoyed the prime rib and visits with the hotel’s 2 chefs [Executive Chef and Assistant Chef].” Hector has high hopes for a career as a chef and perhaps even as an “Iron Chef” competing for culinary supremacy on TV. We will be cheering for you, Hector!  

After dinner, the treasure hunters proceeded to the Arden Theater to see a production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  I sat next to Hector and Emily during the performance.   Both students had read the play in English class during the previous school year.  Dressed for a night out at the theater, Emily told me that she “was excited to see the play since I already know the story. Seeing the play will help me understand the story even more and make it real to me.”     

This version of Romeo and Juliet was no ordinary hose and doublet affair!  The stage was set up as a bi-level open platform so that the acting took place all around with the players running up and down the aisles of the theater. I asked soft-spoken Nicholas, who was sitting behind me, what he thought of the play. He answered, “The modern suits and tuxedos worn in the play bring the story to our generation.  There is lots of energy and action in the sword fight scenes -- I read the story last year and I now really understand it when I see it.”

 Just like his classmates, Lucian, tall and thin in a dark blue pullover, had read the play previously.  During intermission, Lucian told me, “Parts [of the play] are funny.  The last time I was in the theater, I was in kindergarten.  These seats are really close to the stage.  I think I would like to come to the theater again”.

Philadelphia Academies’ Harvey Goss told me that the students are “ sponges”.  “They soak up so much – you can see it in their eyes.  You really can see how art makes a difference in their lives.  Events like these are so worthwhile!” 

After intermission, our group settled in for the second half of the performance with its well-known roller coaster of dramatic action -- the joyful love of Romeo and Juliet, the violence of Capulet-Montague sword fights, the tragic tomb scene, and the grieving reconciliation of Romeo and Juliet’s families. Our cultural treasure hunters followed the action with careful attention and enthusiastically cheered the actors at the end of the performance. 

Thus our Philadelphia Academies’ Culture Treasure Hunters successfully (and sleepily) completed their second segment of their five-part journey. The next part of the Cultural Treasure Hunt is scheduled for March 11, 2010.  Check back around March 22 for an update on the continuing saga of the Philadelphia Academies students’ quest for culture.

-by Maureen Zug


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