Cultural Differences Become Art to Perform, Not Barriers to Cross

Article excerpt

What's great about the teachers at Leland & Gray Union is that they think outside the box," says Ann Landenberger, who teaches English and theater at the small middle/high school in rural Townshend, Vt. Apparently, the teachers think outside the hemisphere as well.

In 2000, Thomas Connor, a history teacher at L&G, returned from his fifth trip to the Far East with an idea: Take a group of Townshend's students to China on an arts exchange.

It was met with enthusiasm by Ms. Landenberger and L&G's musical director, Ron Kelley. In short order, the Freeman Foundation granted them $62,000 for a pilot run.

Journey East 2000 was an afterschool program designed to orient students to Asian culture in preparation for the arts exchange. In April 2000, a pioneer group of 22 L&G students traveled to China and Mongolia and performed an original musical and theatrical program over a two-week period. That fall, L&G welcomed students from the Mongolia College of Performing Arts to New England.

Thanks to a three-year grant extension, Journey East has evolved into a school within a school. …