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The Red & Black

The student news site of Patchogue-Medford High School

The Red & Black

The student news site of Patchogue-Medford High School

The Red & Black

How Ms. Carota’s Theater Class Shaped My High School Experience

I have taken theater multiple times, and I don’t regret it, not one bit!
Photo by Sadie Wisniewski
Each student who takes theater has a chance to stand in this classroom and perform in front of their classmates.

It all started when I was in eighth grade and a guidance counselor came into my classroom to talk to the class about course options for the following year since we would be entering high school.

We were handed a slip of paper with all the courses and before I looked at anything else I made sure there was a theater class available, and luckily for me, there was. I made sure to check off that box and prayed there would be room in my schedule for theater the following year.  

Months later during the pandemic I received my schedule for my freshman year of high school. There it was, theater was listed as my second semester eighth period class.

The first time the class took place it was on Zoom. Therefore, the first time I met Ms. Carota. The moment I hit join I took in the energy of Ms. Carota and the other students in the class who were enthusiastic and eager to learn more about theater.

Each and every student in that class although they were shy, were open to stepping outside of their comfort zone and trying something new. They wanted to make new friends and even connect with already existing friends.  

In one of the first classes, we went around the circle and told an interesting fact about ourselves. Each time someone went, Ms. Carota with a big grin on her face would start clapping as though she was our biggest supporter.  

The class consisted of doing scene work, monologues, presentations, and so much more. That semester I picked a monologue from my favorite show, practiced it, and performed it. It was an amazing experience allowing myself to become my favorite television character for that short period of time. To escape from all my life’s problems and get to be someone else.  

That semester quickly ended, and I sat down with Ms. Carota and told her how much I loved her class. She responded by saying it didn’t have to be the end of my journey in theater, as theater is one of the electives you can take more than once. I told her that from then on, I was going to take theater every year.  

The following semester it was a different group of kids. The first thing that Ms. Carota stressed to the class was that “You don’t have to have any previous theater experience, to take theater!” Anyone who wants to step outside of their comfort zone, needs something to fill their day, or wants to learn more about theater could take theater. 

That semester the theater class partnered with the library and started creating different themed events for students of all ages in the district. We created a themed escape room in the library for students at the high school and began creating themed events for elementary aged students.

Although we planned many events, we still did scene work, monologues, and learned about theater. We spent half the time in the library working on events, and the other half doing theater activities in the classroom.  

As the semesters went by, I began building connections with other students in the theater class. Some of them are my close friends to this day. The theater class also helped me to step outside my comfort zone because it put me in situations where I had to communicate with others and walk them through activities during events. 

This not only helped my theater skills, but it also helped in my ability to thrive in the real world. Many of the concepts such as working with others, public speaking, writing, and being attentive were all things we went over in theater class. These are skills that could apply to anything a person may do beyond their high school years whether that be college, trade school, or the workforce. In theater I learned more than just theater. 

An example of one of the eye-opening activities we did was the character analysis. The character analysis is based upon something called “Uta Hagen’s Nine Questions”. Uta Hagen is a German American actress who believed it was important for actors to understand who their character is and what their character’s motives are on a deep level. To tap into this information Uta Hagan created nine questions actors are supposed to answer.  

These questions consist of:  

  • Who am I? 
  • What time is it? 
  • Where am I?  
  • What surrounds me? 
  • What are the given circumstances? 
  • What are my relationships? 
  • What do I want? 
  • What is in my way? 
  • What do I do to get what I want? 

The idea is not to answer these questions with just one word, but rather to elaborate on them so you can gain an image of exactly what character you are trying to portray. This exercise not only helped my skills as an actress, but it also helped me to understand people and the world around me.

From now on, whenever I am skeptical about a situation, I run some of these questions through my head and the situation will make more sense to me. This is a tool and experience I will always be grateful for. 

Now that my time in the theater class is coming to a close, I would like to encourage anyone who is looking to meet new friends, wants to learn more about theater, wants to step outside their comfort zone, is looking to try something new, wants to gain important life skills, and wants to channel their shyness to take theater. It will be a challenging but also empowering experience that will stay with you for a lifetime.  

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About the Contributor
Sadie Wisniewski
Sadie Wisniewski, Staff Writer
Class of 2024. Loves: writing, cats, and theater. Fears: failure and heights. Wishes: I could only talk to cats.

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