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Chute Middle School students are letting their creativity run wild through their participation in the spring drama production of “Chess Rumble.” Based on the popular young adult book by G. Neri, students are bringing the characters to life in the first-ever theatrical adaption. Last fall, Chute Middle School students read “Chess Rumble” and had the opportunity to visit with G. Neri as part of the Foundation 65Family Author program. This program brings a children’s author to a set of district schools and includes a combination of school, family, and community based activities. At the heart of the program is the opportunity for students to explore what they have learned through creative expression in the areas of visual arts, music, drama, photography, technology, and writing. Sixth through eighth grade students at Chute Middle School are melding each of these elements into the original production of “Chess Rumble.” Performances will be held in the Chute Auditorium (1400 Oakton Street, Evanston) on Tuesday, March 31, at 7pm and Wednesday, April 1, at 7pm.
The story is based on the life of a 13 year-old boy named Marcus who is struggling with anger issues after the death of his sister and the recent split between his parents. Marcus finds himself in trouble quite often for fighting in school and when detentions cease to work, he is introduced to the afterschool chess program. Through his relationship with his chess mentor, CM, Marcus begins to learn the game of life through the game of chess. “There are quite a few connections between Marcus and the conflicts that he experiences throughout the book that parallel to our students. It has been truly rewarding to watch our advanced drama students examine their own lives through the eyes of Marcus and G. Neri,” said Jenna Temkin, Creative Drama Teacher at Chute Middle School. During Mr. Neri’s visit to the school, students from the advanced drama class had the chance to discuss the themes from the book and to explore ways that the story could come alive on the stage. A former drama student and actor, Mr. Neri encouraged the students to “play.” And play, they did! For the past four months, these students have focused on playwriting and adapting G. Neri’s words into playable action for the stage. With the help of the stage crew, comprised of sixth through eighth grade students, the story is coming to life through the creation of a custom set, costume design and the incorporation of props, lighting, and sound. Students in the Advanced Media Arts class are assisting with the creation of the program and show posters and the Advanced Art class is responsible for the set design. The production is made possible through the guidance and direction of the fine arts teaching staff at Chute Middle School including Jenna Temkin, Director; Matthew Hunter, Musical Director; Mariah Keko, Assistant Director; Cindy Adler, Advanced Arts Teacher; and Sherri Kushner, Media Arts Teacher.
“In our adaptation of Chess Rumble, I think that it is very important to convey to our audience the theme of commitment, not solely of chess, but to any activity that makes students think outside the box, to create logical strategies,” said Sofia, 8th grade Advanced Drama student. This year, marks the 90th anniversary for creative drama in Evanston. The production of “Chess Rumble” celebrates the commitment to creative drama and the performing arts by the Evanston community. Performances are free and the public is welcome to attend.