For the Fall 2017 drama production, the Drama Department collaborated with the Public Purpose Office to perform Akeelah and the Bee, a stage adaptation of the 2006 film, at five local elementary schools and community organizations: Boys & Girls Club of Mount Vernon, Building One Community, Community Resource Center, JFK Magnet School, and King Street School. The crew created mobile sets, sound, and lighting that could be adapted for performances in varied settings — community centers, school auditoriums, and a gym — and each organization received an interactive study guide to help the audience explore and reflect on the themes of the show in more depth. Sra. Carafas's Advanced Topics in Spanish class translated the study guide into Spanish at the request of two of the organizations that work with immigrant communities. The performances gave cast members an opportunity to share the play's inspiring themes of community and courage with some of RCDS's partner organizations. After each show, cast members answered questions in a talkback with the audience.
Performing the play in different community settings was a meaningful experience for all involved. Cast members particularly enjoyed the ability to connect with the audience after each show. Haley H. '21 remarked, "I remember being in the audience when I was younger, and being so inspired and awestruck by performances… The fact that I can now make someone else feel like that is really amazing." Several of the actors were excited to find that the connections they made with the audience extended beyond the stage, as well. Peggy H. '20 commented that "the most rewarding part of being in Akeelah and the Bee was having two little girls, who I teach piano lessons to at the Carver Center, approach me after our first show at JFK Magnet School and tell me how excited they were to recognize me onstage. It was so meaningful to see the impact the arts make on different communities."
Faith H. '19 had the unique opportunity of performing for many of the younger students she worked with over the summer at the Boys & Girls Club of Mount Vernon, where she developed and led a performing arts program as an E.E. Ford Community Engagement Fellow. She remarked that "hearing from the students we performed for that they loved the story and that the play made them happy was extremely heart-warming. It was great to have some of the kids ask for hugs and wave at me because it made me feel that I might have made a difference or inspired someone to pursue acting, one of my goals as being an actress. Although the set changes and different spaces were a little difficult to navigate, it was great to be exposed to different communities and organizations. The entire experience was amazing and I am so happy to be a part of our cast and family." Congratulations to the cast, crew, and our community partners for coming together to create a wonderful and memorable show!