Pali’s second period Advanced Drama course is made available to aspiring actors at Pali, starting their sophomore year. The class is two semesters long and fulfills Pali’s visual and performing arts credit, but the class itself can be taken multiple times. Taught in Gilbert Hall by Nancy Fracchiolla for the past three years, it requires a teacher recommendation as opposed to other drama classes at Pali — such as seventh period theater ensemble — that do not need any. Typically, most students in Advanced Drama take the theater ensemble course the year prior.
Each student in Advanced Drama is hand-picked by Fracchiolla to join. Fracchiolla looks for students “who have that extra something — students who have talent coupled with intellect and a desire to go more in depth with their artistic sensibility — be that performance, writing, direction or design.” Students are able to demonstrate their ability to Fracchiolla in other drama classes, or in school performances such as plays, musicals, or the live sketch comedy show that Fracchiolla runs, Friday Night Live.
Currently, the class has 21 students. Junior Rachael Weiss accounted the small class size to the fact that “the only people in Advanced Drama are the people who really want to be in Advanced Drama… we all work together really well.”
Senior Hamraz Azizi agrees as well, remarking how, “the people in the class are genuinely interested and put in everything.”
The focal point of the class is to help students who are passionate about drama expand their skills. It involves the study of acting theory, theatre history, writing, directing, producing, performance trends and the relevance that drama has to society.
These subjects are not taught in the traditional classroom style of textbooks and lectures. “We mostly learn through doing,” Weiss explained. Part of their time is used to learn and practice Uta Hagen’s Ten Object Exercises, a famous form of acting development. The students have also performed a silent scene using only delsarte poses, which is a system of dramatic expression created by French musician François Delsarte. Another activity involves putting on masks to “become someone else for a period,” said Weiss. These methods seem to be effective, with Weiss reflecting, “I’ve learned how to approach acting in a whole different light.”
Additionally, Advanced Drama often collaborate with Pali’s Drama, Play Production and Theater Workshop classes in order to create scenery and costumes for Pali’s main stage productions.
Currently, members of the class are also working in groups and pairs on scenes from famous plays such as Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie. They are planning to showcase these scenes in Gilbert Hall on March 7 at 7 p.m.
Another major project that Advanced Drama students are currently working on is an interactive environmental piece titled A Walk Through My Mind. This type of project is an advanced drama staple; last year Advanced Drama students created “Humankind,” a performance crafted entirely from interviews with students, parents and staff. “A Walk Through My Mind” has no confirmed date, but is likely to be performed some time in March.
As the year continues, other Pali students will get to Advanced Drama projects unfold as the its members complete and perform their work.
When asked if she felt that her students were leaving Advanced Drama as better actors or actresses, Fracchiolla responded, “I certainly hope so; I know I’m a better person for having spent time with them.”