An 'Unfinished' Theater

Rachel Breitweser '03

Cooke Library has undergone a number of experiments in its internal spaces in the last two years, adding areas like a video makery, a peer-to-peer learning center, a café, a restorative studio for activities like meditation and yoga, and an exhibit space. This experimenting is helping to define the experiences the future K – 12 Learning Commons will provide.

One of the repurposed areas is the Morita Sony Center's Unfinished Theater, a space to promote authentic learning through sharing, presentations and performances. A number of classes have utilized the space for open music sessions, mock press conferences and town hall meetings to display their classroom publicly.

"The intended use of this space is to provide a place for students and adults to try out their ideas in the form of presentation," explained music faculty member Darin Au '90, a K – 12 Learning Commons Catalyst. "It's an 'unfinished' theater because learning is a process and presenting ideas publicly is part of that growth."

Academy Beginning Guitar students performed material in preparation for a concert. Practicing in the Unfinished Theater was a way for students to get "accustomed to playing in public and dealing with their nerves," said Au. It's was a low-risk way to tackle performance anxiety. Academy Chorus students also rehearsed in the space, allowing students who are not in choir to see how they use the body as an instrument. During a jazz workshop, accomplished local jazz musicians Shoji Ledward and Dr. Byron Yasui spoke to Creativity and Composition students and demonstrated the principles and process of improvisation. Some students even joined in on the performance by playing ukulele, piano and saxophone, and singing ­– drawing a group of curious onlookers into the space.

While the Unfinished Theater lends itself well to music performances, it is also useful for hosting non-performance-based classes. The Academy Journalism class organized mock press conferences that featured faculty speakers. It was an opportunity for students to practice interviewing techniques and learn about the important work their teachers are doing. The students of Kassandra Jackson's Anatomy and Physiology class created a town hall meeting. They played the roles of school administrators, parents, state government officials and doctors in front of an audience made up of the Punahou community.

The Unfinished Theater has opened up opportunities for an array of activities to benefit students and the school community. "Experts from off-campus can have a wider, shared audience; simulations, presentations and discussions in front of an audience raise the stakes and energy of an activity; and club meetings held in the space can promote interest in different clubs," said Au, naming several of the theater's advantages.