Having fun with history

Another year for the Women in History through Theatre program proves fun and effective.

Jennyfer Balbino in costume for a Women in History performance. — Photo by Esther Teves

The Women in History through Theatre program has just completed its fifth year at the Tisbury School and the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. The program, which makes history fun through reenactments, is taught by Phyllis Vecchia of Creative Drama.

In an email to The Times, Ms. Vecchia shared that the Tisbury School eighth-grade class re-enacted the life of Mary Chipman Lawrence, a whaling wife from Falmouth. The writings of Lawrence in Sail Away Ladies, by Jim Coogan, were adapted into a fun and lively script by Ms. Vecchia for the class to perform. Additionally, the eighth graders acted out the life and times of women from the Salem witch trials, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and the suffragists. The Tisbury School’s sixth-grade class also reenacted stories from the women of Salem and Mary Chipman Lawrence, along with Abigail Adams. At the Charter School, the fifth- and sixth-grade theater classes enjoyed the stories of Salem and African slave and poet Phillis Wheatley.

In total, 31 classes were taught by Ms. Vecchia. The classes also included theater warm-up exercises and dressing up in costume. Along with honing their acting skills, the the children learned about the power of writing, and how literature can transform a society.

A Tisbury sixth grader told Ms. Vecchia, “I enjoyed the women in history workshop, and had fun in the time that we had to do this. I learned many things, such as how women did play a bigger part in history.”

Another Tisbury sixth grader, Lydia Carlos, said, “I think they were extremely brave women. And also I think it is amazing that they [whaling wives] would follow their husband for many years on a dangerous voyage! The women were tough but sweet. They had to go through so much, watching people die and hard times. I think the women were extraordinary and meaningful women.”

A Tisbury eighth grader, Reinaldo Dos Santos, said, “I liked the workshops. I learned that women back then played really big roles that not a lot of people know. This was a fun and effective way to learn about women’s history.”

Ms. Vecchia had a lot of appreciation for those that helped with this year’s program. In an email to The Times, she said, “Whitney Burke, librarian from the Tisbury School, and Emily Levett, library assistant, provided guidance and resources in supporting this program. Jennifer Parkinson is credited with the typing and editing of scripts, and Haley Panek offered her graphic design skills. Teachers Reuben Fitzgerald and Sean DeBettencourt from the Tisbury School displayed a wonderful collaborative spirit and contributed thoughtful ideas for the program, and Heather Capece, a theater teacher at the Charter School, graciously allowed the program into her theater time with the children.”

The Women in History through Theatre program is paid for by the town of Tisbury, Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank Charitable Fund, private funding, and donors. For more information, call Phyllis Vecchia at 508-696-8728.