2009-03-26 / Top Stories

Off-Broadway Performer Brings His Act To Lenox Academy

By Jason Linetsky

(Clockwise from top) Actor John Douglas Thompson answers student's question; actor accepts gift from two students; Thompson with P.S. 235 students and staff members: (rear, l. to r.) hostess Samantha Duncan, teacher Erin McCready and teacher Marie Maignan; packed auditorium welcomes Shakespearean actor and Thompson directs students Angela Christopher, Kenya Jacob and Cadell Smith in a scene from "Othello." (Clockwise from top) Actor John Douglas Thompson answers student's question; actor accepts gift from two students; Thompson with P.S. 235 students and staff members: (rear, l. to r.) hostess Samantha Duncan, teacher Erin McCready and teacher Marie Maignan; packed auditorium welcomes Shakespearean actor and Thompson directs students Angela Christopher, Kenya Jacob and Cadell Smith in a scene from "Othello." Actor John Douglas Thompson made a special appearance last Friday at The Lenox Academy of P.S. 235. The visit came after the school's fifth grade classes recently had the opportunity to see him perform in an Off- Broadway production of William Shakespeare's "Othello" at the Duke Theatre on West 42nd Street in Manhattan.

In an effort to educate students about Shakespeare's works, a group called the Theatre for New Audiences, regularly invites classes from city public schools to special matinee performances. The organization helps develop and vitalize Shakespeare and classic drama, especially for younger viewers.

Joe Giardina, Director of Education for the Theatre for New Audiences said, "We choose one of Shakespeare's plays for students, as well as general audiences. This year the choice is 'Othello.'"

Photos by Jason Linetsky        Photos by Jason Linetsky To prepare for seeing the play, Erin McCready, an educator at the East 100th Street school, had students memorize lines and get accustomed to Shakespeare's writing style in preparation for their own production of the play scheduled for May.

After seeing the play, Giardina arranged for Thompson, who plays the title role, to visit the school to meet with the students. Last Friday morning he spoke to them about his experiences as an actor and, particularly, about portraying Othello. He also answered questions and acted in scenes with a few students.

McCready, Marie Maignan and other fifth grade teachers welcomed Thompson when he arrived at the Academy's auditorium for a full program of activities.

The actor later told his rapt audience, "I just feel honored. I had no idea what the event was going to be like. The kids were so enthused and they made me enthused to be here. I feel wonderful."

The program, hosted by students Laolu Ogunnaike and Samantha Duncan, featured readings of poetry and letters, a monologue, and gave a few students an opportunity to perform with Thompson. In turn, he switched places and directed several students as they acted out a scene from "Othello."

The visit ended when Thompson attended a luncheon in his honor where he readily spoke with parents and answered more questions.

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