Theater class extends welcome to immigrant family through song

Yvonne Kim, Assistant Campus Editor

When theater Prof. Cindy Gold suggested the idea of sending a message of welcome to a new immigrant family in the North Shore, her students were more than willing, she said.

Gold said an acquaintance of hers from Am Shalom Synagogue in Glencoe first reached out to her to do something for a family upon their arrival to the United States. Her junior-level Shakespeare acting class chose to send the family a video of them singing a song of welcome, Gold said.

Communication junior Phoebe Fox, one of Gold’s students, said the project was focused on welcoming them “to their new home.” The class decided that the best way to convey their message was by performing a rendition of “Home” by Phillip Phillips.

“A lot of us are attuned to having conversations about the way our work as artists is impacting our world and is influenced by … the world,” Fox said. “So that was a way for that to actually be executed and move outside of the classroom.”

The students in the class are part of an acting sequence for theater majors that lasts two years. Especially since they are constantly interacting with the same people for such long periods of time, she said it is particularly important to stay aware of “the world outside.”

For Mary Kate Goss, another of Gold’s students, it was a way for her and her peers as actors to send a message that mattered to them.

“How can we best as artists further a narrative of empathy and one that we’d be proud to see?” the Communication junior said. “I think it fit pretty seamlessly into the work that we’ve been doing and the discussions that we’ve had.”

The class needed to do something that would allow the family to maintain its anonymity, Gold said. She added that the video of students singing was an idea that would be appealing to both children and adults.

Because Northwestern’s undergraduate theater program is not a conservatory, they “use theater as a humanity,” Gold said. She said it is important to look beyond a technical education and build students who are good people.

“It’s exciting to have kids that are interested and passionate about more than what’s on Broadway,” Gold said. “Good actors are made from good people. … You want to work with people who are more than just theater-trained.”

Gold said though it can often be difficult for artists to be assertive, she sees this generation of students as one that knows how to voice opinions without fear of asserting themselves. She described her class as a group of “extraordinary” students who are constantly energized by the nation’s political climate.

“The ones that want to be artists have to learn how to use their art to make things better in the world. And that’s essentially what we did that day, ” she said. “We helped people using the tool that we had. … It’s a tiny little drop in the bucket, but it got the class interested.”

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