hamming it up

New York

Broadway comes to a Brooklyn school looking for the spotlight

L-R: Kenny Leon, Samuel L. Jackson, Katori Hall, and Angela Bassett speak to students at Brooklyn High School of the Arts On Monday morning, Brooklyn High School of the Arts teacher Camille Russ tried to be in two places at once. In the school's freshly painted auditorium she sat with theater students as they discussed a new Broadway play with two of its stars, Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett. At the same time, on the other side of the Boerum Hill school, she lectured her Advanced Placement English class about author's voice in Jamaica Kincaid's biography, "Girl." When Russ found out that the playwright, director, and cast of "The Mountaintop," a new play about the night before Martin Luther King was assassinated, would be visiting BHSA, she used her brand-new MacBook Air to film herself delivering the day's lesson. That way, AP English students who are not part of the school's theater program could move on with the curriculum while their classmates enjoyed the artists' surprise visit to the school that Principal Margaret Lacey-Berman calls "the best-kept secret in Brooklyn." In charge since 2008, Lacey-Berman said she encourages teachers to integrate arts and academic instruction whenever possible — something she hopes will boost achievement. The school received a C on last year's city progress report, with a D for academic performance but higher marks for the progress students made over the course of the year. Before the actors' talk, students read the speech King delivered the night before he was killed, which tied into the school's goal, set out in the new "common core" standards, of exposing students to more non-fiction writing, Lacey-Berman said.