A Spoon in the River

Danny Stock
To this generation I would say:
Memorize some bit of verse of truth or beauty.
...And all through the wisdom of Pope, the poet:
Act well your part, there all the honor lies.
– Mrs. George Reece from Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters

This week, staff members and families of High School students participating in GDS acting classes attended performances of monologues drawn from a selection of the 246 free-verse poems contained in Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. The poems narrate the epitaphs of the residents of Spoon River, a fictional midwestern town.

Students filed silently up the aisle from the back of the dark acting room and sat on blocks and benches scattered around the stage like so many gravestones in a hilltop village cemetery. One by one, students stood aand performed their monologue in costume and character as the “weak of will, the strong of arm, the clown, the boozer, the fighter…”

Acting teacher Jim Mahady said: “With Spoon River Anthology speeches, actors learn how to tell a story clearly and use their imaginations to create the character. This year I am seeing some of the best performances I’ve ever seen. The kids are throwing themselves into it and bringing the speeches to life. The Acting 2 students have been doing lovely work all year, but somehow they have truly saved the best for last.”

Soft-spoken students blew the lid off the acting room and strong-voiced seniors whispered meekly in character. Wonderful, well-adjusted GDS students transformed into murderous brutes or grief-crushed daughters on stage. Words in a news article cannot deliver the skin-tingling emotional response that audience members felt as the actors’ voices wove stories through the room, so we are sharing a selection of video clips. Hats off to all the actors and to Jim for the powerful performances.

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Staff writer Danny Stock tells the stories of teaching, learning, competing, creating, and performing at Georgetown Day School. He is a former GDS second grade teacher and current parent.

  • Arts
  • High School
  • Theater