Last night, 26 students performed a variety of pieces for an audience of parents, faculty and their peers for the annual SMUS Recitation Evening. The Senior School students performed everything from modern poetry to ancient dramatic monologues. Recitations are different from dramatic performances in that they have a much wider range of material to choose from and don’t use props or costumes.
“It’s an evening of celebration for kids who have been outstanding,” says organizer Dorothy Hawes. The range of material was impressive, both in choice and presentation. Two Shakespearean monologues as well as poems from Robert Browning and Dylan Thomas provided an old-fashioned flavour, while modern material included the work of K’naan, a Canadian poet and hip-hop artist from Somalia.
“All students at the senior school are required to learn and recite from memory a selection which they present in their individual English classes,” explains Ms. Hawes. After the in-class performances, the students chose their favourite three performers and those students perform during lunchtime for the entire English Department, who this year narrowed the group down from around 80 students to 26 finalists.
Two students performed poems from Def Poetry Jam, the seminal spoken word series, and Kelly Chang performed the poem “Today’s Promise” by Tae-Joo Na in both Korean and English. Performances of Dr. Seuss and pieces from popular humorist Dave Barry added levity to the evening between heavier fare, such as poems by Sarah Kay and Shane Koyczan.
Recitations are a long-standing tradition, and at one time would have been part of a school’s curriculum. SMUS still keeps up the practice through the recitation evening as well as having the Middle School students memorize a piece as part of their Communication Skills course.
“It’s a lost art,” says Ms. Hawes, who has been at SMUS for over 15 years. “It’s the art of not just memorizing something, but being able to recite it in a meaningful way.”
The evening ended with Head of School Bob Snowden presenting each excellent performer with a plaque, engraved with their names. The full set of photos from the evening are available on our photo gallery.