Grant Spotlight – Media, Speech, Theater

Royal Shakespeare Company Comes to New Trier

“English students across all course levels at both campuses gain a deeper understanding of Shakespeare’s texts, and Theatre students learn to perform the works on a richer level. On a deeper level, Michael’s approach to learning Shakespeare helps students to build valuable life skills including critical thinking, social/emotional learning, and collaboration.”
– –Brent Strom, English Faculty

The first signs of spring at New Trier came with flowers budding, birds chirping and voices of students reciting Shakespeare sonnets. The New Trier Educational Foundation has long supported the English Department’s study of Shakespeare through the annual New Trier at Oxford program, which sends students and teachers to learn in the United Kingdom for two weeks each summer.

After 12 successful years, the Foundation was excited to bring this unique opportunity to the rest of the New Trier High School community through an artist-in-residence program with Michael Corbidge, voice and text coach for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). After Corbidge conducted a series of masterclass workshops with students and faculty, the week-long program closed to rave reviews.

“The language Shakespeare created is engaging and active, not passive – and, thanks to Mr. Corbidge, our students loved learning that they have the skills to make that happen,” says Hilerre Kirsch, Media, Speech & Theatre Department Chair. “As a teacher and director of Shakespeare I felt enlivened and renewed by his visit and look forward to using his tips, techniques and approaches to inspire my students!”

“Michael’s expertise and the strategies he uses to help students mine language for its inherent emotional impact brought the text of Shakespeare to life in no time,” points out Ed Zwirner, English faculty. “His approach and technique suggested new ways we can implement a performance strategy into our curriculum for students and enhance an existing program at the Northfield campus to make it even stronger for students.”

Working with the RSC, Corbidge has had incomparable access to the world’s leading practitioners of performing Shakespeare. His workshops, however, never indulge in an exclusivity for approaching the text. In fact, his ‘No Fear’ Shakespeare approach celebrates and empowers how anyone can master Elizabethan text even if at first it seems impossible.

When asked what his favorite aspect to his visit was, this is what Corbidge had to say: “I’ve been touched by the competencies of the students. I’ve been touched by their tenacity. They’ve gone beyond my expectations. I’ve asked them to do something and they didn’t just do it, they did it with kind of, you know, and some.”

Watch videos of the class sessions Michael Corbidge conducted with students in English and Theater.

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NYC International Festival Spotlights New Trier Student Filmmakers

“Participation in the festival provided the students with a larger audience for their work, the opportunity to earn recognition and receive feedback from their peers and respected industry judges. The competition draws out their best efforts in applying what they’ve learned in the classroom.”
– Jim Syrek, Film and Broadcast Faculty

Eleven New Trier filmmaking students traveled to New York city this fall to attend the All-American High School Film Festival, the largest international high school film, photography, and media arts festival. Four New Trier films were selected for this year’s competition.

“Being chosen to be screened among hundreds of the best high school films from around the world demonstrates the level of quality filmmaking that our students have achieved,” points out Jim Syrek, Film and Broadcast Faculty, “and I’m confident we can do even better next year.” In 2017, two films by New Trier students were selected to compete.

At the festival, students gain from looking at the future of filmmaking from the perspective of a young adult, understanding the actual scope of filmmaking, and learning about the growing number of students nationally and internationally in the field.

“It was incredible for our students to see their films on the big screen and to share them with their peers from various cultures,” says Syrek, “And each year, we get a better sense of what is considered to be the best in the field, so that going forward, we know where the bar is as we seek to make our return the following year.”

The event features short films under 30 minutes in various genres: comedy, drama, documentary and public service announcements. Judges look at the writing, direction, editing and other production criteria in selecting entries for the competition.

“I want to thank the Foundation for helping us defray the cost of this year’s trip,” acknowledges Syrek. The Foundation provided $5,000 funding support to help reduce the out of pocket cost for the students to attend the festival.

Senior Olivia Luna submitted two films that were selected for the festival: one public service announcement titled “Oversharing” produced with fellow seniors Marion Madanguit and Lilly Meehan-Egan, and a short film titled “No New Messages.” Junior Eleanor De Fer’s short film, “Ribbon,” and senior Ben Senior’s short film, “Velveeta,” were also selected. All official selections were screened at the AMC theater in Times Square.

In addition to social gatherings, the festival provides several opportunities where our students network with representatives from media colleges and film schools located all over the country. This makes the three days of movie screenings, panel discussions and technology demos even more valuable.

Prior to the film screenings, a week-long broadcast journalism competition and photography competition present opportunities for more New Trier students to be involved. “This opens up the scope of student involvement beyond Media, Speech & Theater to include students from other departments,” says Syrek.

There is great potential for more students to collaborate, make meaningful content and get the most out of this experience. “The quality of our curriculum and tools help New Trier students to push the envelope as storytellers,” attests Syrek. “Each year, the film festival presents a great opportunity for us to showcase their talent and creativity on the world stage.”

Learn more about the festival at

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Young Filmmakers Expand their Horizons

“For our students, this trip was like being out in the field and learning how people actually do this for a living.  Seeing the depth and sophistication of filmmaking and storytelling by their peers was an eye-opening experience.”
– Ms. Iwona Awlasewicz, Media Production Faculty

New York City became the backdrop for seven New Trier media students and three chaperones this past fall at the All American High School Film Festival, the largest high school festival in the country. The event exposed them to the work of other young, talented and hardworking filmmakers from around the world. The festival included workshops, panel discussions, a technology showcase as well as networking opportunities with professionals in the industry. The Educational Foundation provided funding support for this experience. .

Participation in the festival provided students with a large international audience for their work and the opportunity to earn recognition and receive feedback from peers and respected industry judges. Each student submitted a review of his or her favorite film project from the festival that included detailed analysis of the story structure, cinematography, production design, dialogue, lighting, editing and other technical aspects. They concluded with how to improve on their own projects in future.

“This was a tangible experience that breathed new and deeper meaning for what they learned in the classroom,” points out Awlasewicz. “They came back inspired to develop specific, concrete goals while setting their sights for next year’s festival. Now I have to pry them from the computer lab because they work on their videos for hours on end.”

“It became clear that goal setting needed to be formally added to the curriculum,” adds Awlasewicz. “This is what support from the Foundation did for me and my students.”

On the last day of the festival, awards were given for best in various categories including composing, screenwriting, cinematography, special effects and makeup, to name a few. Awlasewicz sees this as an opportunity for a New Trier interdepartmental collaborative film project down the road.

“Can you imagine New Trier being nominated for an Oscar,” asks Awlasewicz enthusiastically. “I can!”



Read more impact stories:

Grants Spotlight 2018-2019

Grants Spotlight 2017-2018

Grants Spotlight 2016-2017

Grants Spotlight 2015-2016