For decades, Brooklyn’s Poly Prep Country Day School has been known for turning out such talented alumni as Grace Gummer (“Arcadia”) and Dan Fogler (“25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”). Now, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Poly Prep is sending something else out into the world: charitable donations.
For the past few years, the Poly Prep middle school’s performing arts department has been making in-kind donations to timely causes instead of charging for tickets to plays. The students usually submit suggestions and then vote for a charity, but this semester the decision was unanimous: Hurricane Sandy relief. Currently working on a production of “Robin Hood,” the Poly Prep middle schoolers are partnering with the Robin Hood Foundation to collect blankets for victims of the recent storm and are encouraging audience members to donate to a hurricane relief fund.
“We had over 60 families who were affected by the storm and lost houses or were displaced in some way,” said Malcolm Farley, Poly Prep’s director of marketing and communications.
Jill Bolstridge, who is directing the show, originally chose “Robin Hood” because its themes related to the 2012 presidential election. It was a coincidence that the play she chose—which deals with the disparity between the rich and the poor—would also be so applicable to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. “It all came together,” Bolstridge said.
“The character Robin Hood takes from the rich and gives to the poor,” said student Addee Kim, who plays Bronwen. “It has a lot to do with donations to Sandy, because students at Poly were so grateful for everything we have, and so the fact that we’re giving back really shows that we can help other people.”
The student actors—all of them seventh- and eighth-graders—feel good about helping their community.
“It makes me feel really good,” said Grace Leinhard, who plays Maid Marian. “I feel like we’re making a difference. Obviously I really enjoy performing, but I also enjoy raising money for people, and I know that New York City was really devastated by Sandy. It’s important that people do everything that they can to raise money.”
Of course, with Poly Prep’s reputable performing arts department, the students are also excited about getting valuable theater experience.
“Poly’s a private school, and a lot of money does go to the performing arts department,” said Zack Hajjar, who plays King Richard. “That’s great because we can get really good set pieces, really nice costumes that we rent, [and] a professional design team. All those little things turn out making the production that much better. It’s amazing.”
Zach Kimmel, who plays Prince John, said that audience members are always amazed at the quality of the middle school drama productions.
“When I came to the upper school I really felt the professionalism of the theater department,” he said. “I remember my grandma came to see ‘Grease,’ and on the car ride home she asked me, ‘Those were seventh- and eighth-graders?’ I think that’s a pretty common response when people come see the middle school shows at Poly—just blown away that [we] can put on a show like that.”