In what way is my present contingent on our collective past?
Nine Morristown High School seniors immersed themselves in ancient Greek and Roman arts and sciences in an effort to answer that cosmic question.
Their stunning conclusions were shared Wednesday at Classics Academy Night, the culmination of a year-long experiment.
Noelia Mann wrote a play updating the myth of Medea, who killed her kids to get even with her two-timing husband, Jason.
After a mini-performance of Noelia’s Tomorrow & Tomorrow & Tomorrow, Gloria Bangiola grabbed a baton and conducted a 23-piece student orchestra for the premiere of Reconciliation, her musical appeal to our better angels in the face of brutality handed down through the ages.
Others made “Encaustic” paintings, tiled mosaics and wooden sculptures inspired by the ancients. There were a pair of novellas, a Monty Python-esque movie about a diabolical Donald Trump scheming to re-animate Osama bin Laden (the classical angle apparently being that Monty Python is, well, a classic) and a clever People Magazine parody of “The Glorified Women” of Antiquity.
All of this stemmed from a year of studying classical literature, history, math, art, religion and philosophy, in a search for eternal truths and origins of western traditions.
Morristown High dubbed this venture Classics Academy, patterned after the school’s Science Academy that offers a concentration of courses similar to a college major. One prerequisite for admission to Classics Academy was three years of participation in the school’s popular Latin Club, best known for annual chariot races in the parking lot.
A Latin Club alumnus, Ben Donnellon, is making a documentary about Classics Academy.
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Modern tools enhanced the students’ historical exploration. They received iPads, lectures were delivered on podcasts and classroom discussions often continued via Moodle, the school’s online network. Students were encouraged to tutor each other according to their academic strengths.
“We grew really close. And now we’re all going to leave. It’s going to be sad,” said Catherine Sharretts, whose People Magazine send-up included a spread on Medea with the headline: “I’d Do It Again.”
Michael DiMare, Meghan Kelly, Derek Mull, John Abrams, Carrie Cabush and Daniel Sobol rounded out the inaugural class of Classics Academy, which was taught by teachers Mark Gutkowski (Latin), Dawn DiMartino (history), Cynthia Laudadio (English) and Harry Sugar (math), who is retiring.
Teachers Michael Butler, Jack Ferrante, Rosemary McLaughlin, Norma Davis, Mira Morrison, Robert Skiff and Jen Furphey served as advisers.
Michael DiMare, who plans to study engineering at the University of Illinois, teamed with an engineer–his dad–to carve a Minotaur mask from a block of wood. Neither of them had any carving experience. Like Greek and Roman engineers, they had to make it up as they went along.
Symbolically, Michael chose the Minotaur because he said the monster’s duality–half-man, half bull–suggested the duality in us all. We have many faces, actually, and we mask most of them, he said.
Carrie Cabush re-cast the tale of Cassandra, the ill-fated prophet of doom, at Lehman Brothers, the investment bank that precipitated the global financial crisis in 2008. Cassandra, whose dire warnings were ignored according to mythology, continues to be a metaphor for abused women, said Carrie, who wants to help them by becoming a psychologist.
Stay tuned for more from Classics Academy Night.