The drama program in the Visual & Performing Arts Pathway is one that provides many unique, real-world opportunities for its students. Taught by Awele Makeba, she consistently uses her professional connections and personal resources to benefit her students. Most recently, she used the consolation prize money she received from her NBC Sports Bay Area Teacher of Year nomination to bring professional actor, director, acting coach and mentor L. Peter Callender into the classroom for master class instruction in acting, voice and text work throughout the fall 2019 semester.
Starting with the Beginning Drama Class, Mr. Callender has focused on the August Wilson curriculum unit and offered his dramaturgical research on the world of the play as part of his work with the students this year. In the Professional Drama class, Mr. Callender has been an acting coach for their fall production of Lockdown Await Further Instructions, created from the real words and experiences of young people from New York City and Oakland’s Professional Drama students at Skyline High School, in partnership with RoundAbout Theatre Company’s Education Department.
“L. Peter Callender has helped me understand the power of my presence on stage, the power of operative words of emphasis for actors to let the audience know the most important thing a character is saying as well as the importance of living in the moment,” said Hezekiah Pemberton, class of 2020.
“He has been an invaluable community partner and master teacher, mentor casting director. It is important for students to have relationships with professionals in the field,” Ms. Awele said. “He has helped students learn professional standards which is vitally important for our students to learn how to work under those standards.”
In addition to being a guest artist, industry specialist and community partner Mr. Callender has coached past drama students who have auditioned for A Wrinkle In Time and When They Hear Us. He also assisted in casting students in productions including casting former Skyline student Atlantis Clay in the role of the Prince in The Winter’s Tale performed by the African-American Shakespeare Company in San Francisco for the 2016-2017 Season.
“L. Peter Callender talked with me about my distinguished voice and discovered that I have a desire to work as a voice artist. He shared personal contacts with prominent voiceover artist industry specialists in the field like Elaine Clark and offered to give a personal reference for me,” said Hanif Hypolite, class of 2020.
In a school in and school district with limited financial resources, Ms. Awele stops at nothing to expose her students to professionals in the field as well as provide them with opportunities to perform on both national and international stages.
Notable Skyline Drama performances have included the Festival Fringe in Edinburgh, Scotland, the Juneteenth Variety Show at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the SHN Theater Hamilton stage in San Francisco. In addition, Ms. Awele’s students have also worked with Cal Shakes professionals: Eric Ting, artistic director, Phillipa Kelly, dramaturg, and Dave Maier, stage combat coach, as well as, actor and writer Donte Clark, and co-facilitated a restorative justice circle with writer Alice Walker.
“As an aspiring actor having access to learning from professionals working in the business is incredibly valuable,” said Avelina Rivezzo-Weber, class of 2020. “ I’ve learned so much and been able to build connections before I even finish high school.”