For more than two decades the Cultural Arts Academy has welcomed gifted-and-talented students from several EPISD middle schools to expand their knowledge of the Renaissance.
For four weeks, students immerse themselves in all things Renaissance, like Shakespearean plays and period music being played in the recorder. At the end of the program, the students put together performances for the community to enjoy.
“Middle-school kids are precious and this is a good group of kids. They really want to be here. They are driven,” program director Donna Ulrich said. “At the end they understand the importance of finishing a project and learn about a time period from long ago.”
Some of those projects included Coat of Arms and Arcimboldo-inspired portraits.
They also learned about Renaissance architecture by creating terra cotta tiles depicting famous buildings such as Bramante’s Tempietto in Rome and the Globe Theater in London.
Theater is one of the main-driving forces behind the program with students performing three abbreviated versions of famous Shakespeare plays.
This year the students performed “Taming of the Shrew,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Macbeth.”
Theater director Christy Moss, who is also directing the EPISD summer musical, is impressed by how deeply the students have embraced their roles.
Student Victoria Villalobos loved playing the role of the strong and defiant Katherine in “Taming of the Shrew.”
“I like that she’s going against what was acceptable at the time,” Villalobos said.
She also liked stage slapping her character’s love interest Petruchio — an act that drew gasps from the audience. But above all, she enjoyed the experience of making new friends.
“What I really liked is all the people that I have met here. We’ve gotten to know each other very well,” Villalobos said. “We all really wanted to be here. You could really see it. We were all determined to play our parts.”
For eighth-grader Raul Baez fencing is his favorite part, giving him a physical outlet for any worries he may have. He likes the program so much, this is his second year participating.
“I love fencing the best because at the end of the day if something doesn’t go right fencing relieves stress,” Baez said. “It really helps me feel better, and it’s fun.”
Besides learning about the Renaissance the biggest take-away for many students is the opportunity to network with like-minded students from across the District they may have not otherwise met.
“It’s a great program to learn about the arts, but I really enjoyed meeting other kids from different middle schools,” Baez said. “I love everything. It’s a great experience.”