The Westchester community is fortunate to have a new arts and culture center in our own backyard - and our SHMS eighth graders got an early preview of what is being offered at the DR! DR is what the directors of the Pocantico Center affectionately call the new David Rockefeller Creative Arts Center on the grounds of the Rockefeller Preserve.
The historic building, which had served as an Orangery, housing orange trees through the winter months, has been transformed into a net-zero energy, multipurpose dynamic space that includes an art gallery, artist studio, and performance theater.
The eighth graders were treated to The People's Theater Project group’s performance of The Diamond, with students entering the performance space as the rehearsal was underway. The Diamond, is a story of the immigrant experience in a fictional dystopian country called ‘The Nation.’ The powerful performance touches on topics such as assimilation, freedom of speech/religion and equality through a story about what it is like to be a detainee or a dreamer. What’s more, the performers use only their bodies on a bare stage to convey these themes. The performing group is currently living on campus while rehearsing at the DR as they prepare for their opening in Manhattan this April.
The students were thoroughly engaged as they watched the actors convery the immigrants' experience through characters from Dominican Republic, Korea, Uganda, Iran and Guatemala. During the ‘talk back’ with Director Chuk Obasi and the actors, the students were asked if anyone saw themselves in the story. One student responded, “Yes, when the actor said she missed Mangu.” Mention of the Dominican plantain dish was met with clapping and shouts of agreement from classmates, an acknowledgement of the ties that many students have to their native foods and cultures. This exchange then led to an active conversation about assimilation and fitting in, and the merging into your new culture which is hard for those coming from a different country.
“It's so cool that this (performing center) is right up the hill,” said one 8th grader. Both the DR and The Public Schools of the Tarrytowns think it's cool too, and look forward to many future opportunities to share arts and culture with students.