Students learn finer points of reviewing; Hanover teams up with city schools.
WORCESTER - Aspiring young critics gave rave reviews to a new program that invites them to view performances and then learn how to write critiques.
Then the reviewers, all juniors and seniors from Worcester high schools, offered constructive criticism about ways to make the second season even better.
Their comments mirrored the goals of the Unum student critic program, which was held from November through June at The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts.
Critics, the students learned, owe it to their audiences to examine a performance carefully, highlight its strengths and point out what its weaknesses.
The students in the program attended Saturday matinee performances of "Movin' Out," "Cats," "Cirque Dreams," "Annie" and "Chicago," the last show of the program, which was held June 6.
An hour before the show, they met with the program's instructor, Paul Kolas, a theater critic for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Mr. Kolas gave the students pointers about how to view a performance with a critical eye and how to transfer those thoughts to a written review.
The students then watched the play and wrote reviews, which were critiqued by Mr. Kolas.
This pilot program aims to build relationships between the theater and the Worcester public schools.
The program was financially supported by Unum. "It's great to see students getting educated not only in classrooms but in enrichment programs like this," said Steven G. Joseph, senior vice president at Unum.
The program will continue next year, he said.
Critics must look at all aspects of a performance, Mr. Kolas told the students. "You owe it to what you're seeing to be thorough,'' he said.
Critics should write with flair, he said. "You energize it with your own personalities. You all impart your specific voices.''
He also encouraged them to consider the level of the production. A Broadway production, with tickets in the $100 range, should be "amazing on all levels.'' Local theater, he said, must be considered within the constraints of smaller budgets and non-Equity actors.
"There's no way to judge on one standard only," he said.
He encouraged the students to write honestly and not to worry about offending the performers. Actors tend to be their own worst critics anyway, he said.
But there is also no reason to criticize performances "in a savage way. Some critics are brandishing their own ego" rather than looking at a production completely and fairly, he said.
Claremont Academy student John Oliveras said the program "exposed us to many things, not just writing but the arts. We're now good ambassadors to the theater and the arts."
As an actress, South High student Cassandra Duncanson said the lessons opened her eyes to how the audience views a performance.
"I love how it expanded our minds to other perspectives," said Stephanie Anjos, who attends North High.
At a reception honoring the students after the final performance, Mayor Konstantina B. Lukes said she would have enjoyed participating in the program herself.
"I hope it made a difference in your life," she said.
Troy Siebels, the theater's executive director, described the young critics program as "a great way to start our outreach programs." He said he hopes schools and the community would view the theater as a resource for educational opportunities.
The other students involved in the program were: Vanessa Valladeres, Claremont Academy; Danielle Carsus, University Park Campus; Alicia Lazzaro, North High; Emma Baker, Doherty High; Virna Sekuj, Doherty High; Patrick Duffy, South High; Dayanara Negron, Worcester Technical High School; Jessica Restrepo, University Park Campus; Michelle Hanna, Burncoat High School; and Gretta Prostak, Burncoat High School
CUTLINE: Paul Kolas, who writes reviews for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, is pictured with a few of the students who participated in the program above and on the cover. Students pictured above, from left, are: Stephanie Anjos, Gretta Prostak, Cassandra Duncanson and Virna Sekuj.
PHOTOG: T&G Staff Photos/JIM COLLINS