Williston Scholars Shines Spotlight on Performing Arts


This past winter, Williston’s elite group of scholars showcased their talents in an array of musical, theatrical, and performing arts pieces.
In this trimester-long class, Williston Scholars Performing Arts, students worked independently to create and perform arts projects with weekly check-ins with teachers and classmates. The students were meant to convey their personal values and ideas through their finished product, which they then presented to the community on Friday, March 26.
The students who took the class included nine seniors: Linda Askenazi Mochon, Hannah Cannizzo, Amelia Carlan, Gabriel Davila-Bustamante, Z Demetriou, Jillian Dietz, Sophie Gontow Calderon, Tyler Johnson, Alexa Kerr; two juniors: Sage Friedman and Adeline Hume; and one post-graduate, Eleanor Winrow.
There are many mediums students could pursue. Linda, Z, and Ty chose music. Hannah, Sage, Alexa, and Eleanor pursued theatre, while Amelia, Jillian, Adeline, and Sophie chose dance. Gabriel performed stand-up comedy.
The class is taught by the Director of the Williston Theater, Emily Ditkovski, and Theatre Production and Facilities Manager, Charles Raffetto.
“The Tearoom” was a one-person play conceived, created, and performed by Sage. The story follows a relationship of two women in the 1920s told through letters the two wrote to each other. Sage did a lot of research on the 1920s to make this play come alive, and Scholars Performing Arts was the perfect place to showcase this hard work.
“This class was an opportunity for me to focus on what I am passionate about, and to develop my own personal narrative as an artist,” Sage said.
Sage found Williston Scholars to be a very rewarding class, and they were so happy to see what they created on stage.
“It was really special to have something that I created be able to be shown and performed on the stage, and see my vision come from ideas to reality,” they said.
Jillian created and performed a dance piece called “The Little Things” with music from “Music for Playgrounds” by Tome Hagerman, “I’m Just a Kid” by ZvoGenius, and “The 1975” by The 1975. The dance follows the life of a young girl who grows up in modern society and all the horrors of the world. She tries to combat issues like climate change and societal imbalance, but learns that “a little goes a long way, and it’s best to start with ‘The Little Things,’” Jillian said.
Jillian took this class because she wanted a time to dedicate to the study of dance and focus on her favorite part of the art, storytelling.
“Dance is such a unique way to express something you are feeling,” she said. “There are so many ways it can be interpreted, which makes it specific to each viewer.”
To show the growth of the her character from childhood to adulthood, Jillian separated parts of their life by different styles of dance.
“I tried to use different styles for each section. The beginning is more jazz and energetic (childhood). The middle is more hip hop (teenage years). The ending is a bit of modern and contemporary (adulthood),” she said. “It took a very long time to create a juxtaposition from piece to piece.”
Gabriel conceived, created, and performed a stand-up comedy set called “God, Country, Family.” Gabriel was keen on creating a stand-up piece this year, espcially since there could not be any on-stage collaboration.
Eleanor wrote and performed an autobiographical acting piece about the personal struggles she faced after receiving a medical diagnosis her junior year, called “Through Thick and Thin.” Eleanor was drawn to Williston specifically because of the Scholars class.
“The Scholars program was actually one of the reasons I was looking at Williston for a PG year,” she said. “I wanted a class that highlighted my interest in performing, and also challenged me to take risks and try new things within the art of theatre that I was much less comfortable with, such as playwriting and directing.”
Eleanor recognized that many people including herself have faced difficulty in the last year, and wanted to portray the message that you are never alone during struggles.
“This year and last were full of struggles for every single person, so I thought now would be a good time to talk about how I was able to push past a different, challenging time in my life, and how there is always someone there to help you, just in case anybody was feeling alone or helpless,” she said.
The other pieces in the class included Linda’s “Introduction To Music Theory and Case Study.” Ty also created an EP of digital music. Hannah’s created and performed a play called “The Telephone Game.” Amelia choreographed a dance piece called “Look in Thy Glass.” Sophie also choreographed and performed a dance piece called “Codependent.” Adeline performed and choreographed the dance “The Pursuit of Happiness.” Z created a musical performance called “Entwicklungsroman.” Alexa created and performed an untitled theatre piece.
Ditkovski said that unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the collaboration aspect of the class was lost.
“Considering everything our students had to contend with, they were overall outstanding,” she said.
Teaching this class, for Ditkovski, is one of the best parts of her job at Williston.
“I absolutely love nurturing young artists on their path, and to make space for them to create,” she said. “Helping them identify what they have to say, and the best way to say it, is honestly such a joy.”