Courtesy of School District 65

Chute Middle School examined issues of identity and stereotypes through student-led theatrical performances as part of their Inside Out project on April 3-4. Students in Jenna Temkin’s advanced drama and Sherri Kushner’s advanced media arts classes studied the world-renowned movement and global art project inspired by French artist JR and identified themes for Chute Middle School’s own Inside Out Project.

Over the course of several months, these students created stories through improvisation based on community issues that they wished to address. They brought these stories to life on stage in front of their families, staff, community members and fellow students through engaging monologues, poetry and theatrical scenes. Many students also worked behind the scenes as a part of the stage crew, using large-scale photos and video to help tell their story. “We asked ourselves what is inside out? If we brought someone to our school, our homes and our hearts, what would they see? Based on our class work and through these conversations, students decided to examine issues of identity, stereotypes, diversity and bullying,” said Ms. Temkin.

Each student wrote a personal statement that started with “You think you know me? Come inside my school/home/heart/mind and I’ll show you…”

“As an ensemble, we felt like our school is often stereotyped. The school is located in Evanston but many of us are not from here. It’s important that we get to know each other; we are deeper on the inside and have learned that you can’t judge people. We are not jailbirds, we are high-flying eagles,” said Chute student Genevieve Lindley. She was referring to the metal bars in the front of the school, which received a great deal of press in the past and included references to community perceptions of Chute students as “jailbirds.”

“At first, they saw the bars as something that did in fact send the wrong message to the community. They were upset that people thought our school looked like a prison and that they were called jailbirds,” said Ms. Temkin. “Through the rehearsal process, their opinions changed. They saw the bars as something that was a part of their school – a part of their story – and it did not matter what people on the outside thought. They realized what matters is what is happening on the inside,” she added.

These performances nearly coincided with a March 31 decision by the District 65 Board of Education to replace the metal gates with glass windows and doors as a part of several bids presented for building and construction work.