Legacy HS students use theater to reflect on school closure

Students weren’t able to stop the city from closing Legacy High School for Integrated Studies. But they have been able to turn their protests into a learning experience.

Last night, students from Legacy performed a skit on the difficulty of making choices. In the skit, the students had access to “Make a Choice 3000,” an app that showed them the outcome of possible decisions.

The skit was performed as part of “Show Up,” an annual event showcasing of original performances written by students as part of ENACT, a dropout prevention program that operates in 150 city schools with high dropout rates.

The choice the kids in the skit were confronted with? Whether to fight against the city’s closure of the fictional Regency High School, even if they knew their efforts would most likely be fruitless.

The skit also delved into students’ feelings after their efforts failed.

“I feel embarrassed,” one student in the skit said. “We fought so hard.”

The Panel for Educational Policy voted to phase out Legacy in February, despite student-led efforts in opposition to the turnaround, including a student walk-out to a rally at Union Square and phone drive. Legacy students were at the forefront of the protests, which involved several high schools.

But the skit concluded with a positive message.

“Sometimes you don’t have a say,” a student actor said. “But you always have a voice.”

ENACT strives to use theater to help students take ownership of their behavior and choices, and holds workshops at the schools throughout the year, focusing especially on the ninth grade. The performances last night were the result of ENACT’s afterschool program at four schools, including Legacy.

“We ask students what it is that they want to share with an audience in a way that be heard, that can help bridge gaps between the community and the schools,” said Diana Feldman, the founder and head of the program.

“In this particular school, clearly this was on their mind,” she said. “Some of the had a sense of hopelessness, and we worked with them in helping them realize they learned a lot, that there was a lesson in standing up for themselves.”

Harry Rivas, a freshman at Legacy and actor in the skits, said the students chose to set the piece at a fictional high school in order to depoliticize it.

“We didn’t want anybody to feel blamed,” he said. “It feels great to just give them our perspective of being in a school that’s being phased out.”

The other skits, performed by students from the High School of Hospitality Management in Manhattan, M.S. 363 in the Bronx, and the School for Legal Studies in Brooklyn, also focused on the importance of choice.

DaShannon Bryant, a sophomore at the School for Legal Studies, said ENACT helps her make a choice every day— to show up for school.

Bryant said she was recommended to participate in the ENACT afterschool program after she racked up absences her freshman year.

“I had a lot of absences, so a teacher recommended I get involved so I would come to school, so I could learn and stuff,” she said.

Erica Burkett, a freshman at Legacy and aspiring actress, signed up for the after school program as soon as she heard about it. She said ENACT was also one of her favorite parts of school.

“I just love it so much,” she said.