I called it an in-school field trip, taking my ninth graders to the cavernous and empty school auditorium. I was a new teacher, and I had just about lost all hope of doing anything worthwhile with Julius Caesar. I tried everything I could think of from class readings, to text explications, to history lectures. Whatever I did with the play fell flat on my docile students. This was it—my last effort. My students were given a chance to put on the play, performing scenes for each other on a large stage in an empty auditorium.
After much reticence, my students started getting into it. They were enjoying themselves, I noticed, hesitant to get too excited. Furthermore, they seemed to understand what they were doing. With some help from me, the words of Shakespeare were making sense to them. It turned out to be a great day for me, one of the first successes I had as a new teacher. I had found the power of teaching drama through performance.
Friendship High School is set in the middle of a pleasant middle-class neigh-borhood. The building is so out of place in this community of small homes that I was taken aback by my first view of the massive red brick structure. Friendship is a large school, with 2,142 students who are very diverse economically and ethnically. This school sends more students to college than any of the other city schools in town. Yet, Friendship High has to educate a large group of students who will not go on to higher education. The racial and ethnic composition is about 40% white, 40% African American, 15% Hispanic, and 5% Asian. Friendship High is in every way a school in an urban area that reflects diversity.