The School Matinee Series: Helping Chicago Teachers Introduce Their Students to the Power of Theater for Three Decades

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The School Matinee Series gives students the chance to interact with actors and artists following the production.

For the past 31 years, the Goodman’s School Matinee Series (SMS) has worked with hundreds of teachers from high schools across Chicago, bringing students each year to see Goodman productions free of charge—including Yasmina’s Necklace. Throughout the school year, Goodman Education staff work with teachers to integrate play content and the arts into specific curriculum across all subject areas, creating a series that not only gives students a rich theatergoing experience, but also aids in the development of critical thinking skills and sparks curiosity and enthusiasm for learning. Theater tech, drama and theater history teacher Edward Cisneros of the Multicultural Academy of Scholarship (MAS) reflects on 10 years participating in the program, and how it has enhanced his students’ lives.

Elizabeth Rice: Tell me about MAS. Why do you love working there?

Ed Cisneros: I take great pride in working at MAS and on the Little Village/North Lawndale High School Campus. MAS is one of four small schools housed in this building that is the direct result of a 19-day hunger strike staged by residents of the Little Village community who wanted better education for the youth of their community. It’s my responsibility to honor their sacrifice by upholding their vision. MAS is a true neighborhood school open to any student regardless of academic ability, test scores, learning challenges or facility with the English language; we are there to serve every student who walks through our door. Our campus is a true resource of the community and I love that through my work, theater is a part of the experience for our students and their families. Over the years, I’ve taught multiple siblings and cousins from the same family; I take great joy knowing that my classes are a shared experience that lives outside of the classroom.

ER: Why did you join the School Matinee Series?

EC: The series provides an opportunity for students to see theater of the highest quality at no cost to them or our school. For the majority of students, the Goodman is the first theater they ever attend. Furthermore, they get to experience plays from the theater’s actual season. I admire that the Goodman doesn’t produce separate plays with smaller budgets and shorter running times for high schoolers, but instead challenges them with the same material as its adult audience. It’s a tremendous risk, but one that has constantly paid off. The Goodman’s spectacular design also provides excellent fodder for my theater tech class, and really helps make what we learn in the classroom into a tangible reality.

ER: Why is theater tech an important subject?

EC: I have always enjoyed technical theater and wanted to share that with students. It’s a great way for students who take my drama course—which focuses primarily on performance—to get an entirely different perspective of theater. There’s a lack of diversity in the professional tech and design world, and I wanted to expose students to career possibilities that they would have never known existed.

ER: What have been some memorable experiences at the Goodman?

EC: It’s difficult to select one favorite, but I love how the plays become a part of the students’ lives. I remember students pulling off Harpo Marx’s handshake gag in the hallway after seeing Animal Crackers, or former students still telling me how much they loved Fish Men when visiting from college. Students made connections to the telenovelas they watch with their families after seeing The Little Foxes, and more recently, students were still humming the “Wrong Note Rag” from Wonderful Town during the final weeks of last school year. In short, the plays become a part of their life experience and it’s only possible because of the School Matinee Series.

For more information, please visit GoodmanTheatre.org/SchoolMatineeSeries