Harley students showcase ‘Connections’ through drama, art

COURTESY OF THE HARLEY SCHOOL

Eighth graders at the Harley School recently shared what identity means to them with “Connections,” a performance art project that explored privilege, racism and societal constructs.

Harley School eighth graders explore what identity means to them with “Connections.”

Students sought inspiration from visual artist Nick Cave to create original “Identity Suits” that they wore to perform scenes depicting real issues like bullying through movement, music and choreography. The goal for the production was for students to learn about what it means to be an individual and how to connect with others in their community.

“Nick Cave creates ornately detailed soundsuits that he says are meant to be worn as a second skin, disguising race, class and gender,” said Rebecca Tracey, Middle School art faculty. “I’ve always been inspired by his work, as well as the connections he uses between wearable art and performance art. I find his work visually compelling and his stories about the work are powerful, and I wanted to share a new way of working with students.”

Harley School students create “Identity Suits” inspired by visual artist Nick Cave.

To prepare for the performance, students attended master classes with Heather Stevenson, co-artistic director of PUSH Physical Theatre; Seth O’Bryan, director of the Commons at The Harley School; and local actor, writer and performer Penny Sterling. They also went to workshops on diversity, equity and inclusion and social-emotional learning to identify ways to incorporate these key topics into their resulting performances.

Eighth graders perform scenes depicting real issues like bullying at the Harley School.

“It’s been such an amazing process to watch the students’ awareness of identity unfold through not only their SEL and DEI classes, but from diverse modalities in the performing and fine arts, which gave them the opportunity to embody the issues around identity in a real and resonant way,” said Linda Foster, Middle School drama faculty.