7th and 8th Graders Attend Chamber Theatre’s ENCORE!

At the Fort Smith Convention Center in October, junior high students chattered as they waited for the Chamber Theatre’s “ENCORE!” performance to begin. All that the students could see was an empty stage and bright lights. Suddenly the lights dimmed, the curtains opened, and actors appeared on stage.

ENCORE! is a group of traveling actors who perform classic short stories including Edger Allen Poe’s “The Raven” and “Tell-Tale Heart,” Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” W.W. Jacobs’ “The Monkey’s Paw,” Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace,” and Mark Twain’s “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

Out these six stories, students had their favorites.

“I liked ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ the best because it was interesting when they found out that their son was a zombie,” Ethan Maciel, 7th said, said.

Another creepy story was “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” which seventh graders remembered from when their elementary school librarian read it to them.

“I liked ‘Sleepy Hollow’ the best because it was entertaining and suspicious,” Kelly Soundara, 7th, said.

Some preferred comedy over scary.

“I liked ‘The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County’ because it made me laugh and was very funny and entertaining,” Jacob Phavixay, 8th, said.

Before attending the theater, eighth graders had read Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

“Both the story and the play had the same conflicts and how the Narrator stalked and killed the old man because of his eye,” Jacob said.

Ms. Brewer organized the trip for seventh graders and 120 attended.

“The students each paid $20 dollars which covered their ticket and lunch at Cici’s Pizza,” Ms. Brewer said. “The bus was free because it was in town, and we used in-building drivers so it only required the cost of subs.”

For the eighth graders, Mrs. Garcia secured funds from the Parker Center for the bus and driver, plus tickets for eight English Language Learners (ELLs) new to the U.S. Because the bus was paid for by the Parker Center, only ELLs were allowed to ride. The other twenty eighth grade ELLs paid for their own tickets and lunch at the Central Mall Food Court, with shopping time afterwards.

For the ELL newcomers, the theater trip helped them understand the eighth-grade stories better.

“Visuals are always a great teaching strategy to reach Ells,” Mrs. Garcia said. “Going to the Chamber Theatre benefited the ELLs because many times the printed words in English do not have meaning. However, when they ‘see’ the stories they read in class, then it makes sense.”

Overall, the theater trip benefited all students.

“A lot of our kids had never experienced anything in the arts,” Mrs. Medlin, 7th grade teacher, said. “It is important for them to see a broader view of the world beyond their ‘normal’ life. For the seventh graders, I think it will help them in years to come as they read these stories in 8th and 9th grade. They will have connection to them and the trip will come to them as they read.”