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Pine-Richland students to meet Irish counterparts in virtual classroom

| Monday, April 17, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Student in Pine-Richland High School's International Thespian Society rehearse their performance of 'The Hobbit,' the school's fall, 2016 play.

Pine-Richland High School students will make a virtual journey across the Atlantic Ocean to talk about literature and theater with their counterparts in Belfast, Ireland.

The students will meet in a global classroom — similar to a Skype video conference — to perform scenes from the play, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” which was adapted from the coming-of-age best-seller by Pittsburgh-native Stephen Chbosky. The book also became a 2012 movie filmed in Pittsburgh.

“What the novel is talking about are all of the issues that our kids are dealing with on a daily basis,” said John Dolphin, Pine-Richland High School English teacher and one of the project's facilitators.

Dolphin, who heads the school's International Thespian Society chapter, said student participants will be from a mix of literature, theater and social studies classes. The International Thespian Society has inducted more than two million theater students worldwide since its 1929 founding, according to its website.

“The most exciting thing for me is that this project is allowing ... a dialogue about the things that are important, scary, weird and fun about being a high school kid,” he said. “The Belfast high school kids, they're dealing with the same things.”

On April 24 — 9 a.m. local time, and 2 p.m. at Belfast's Ashfield School — students from each school will perform and discuss scenes from the play, as well as have an opportunity to discuss everyday life in each country.

The project is in conjunction with the Pittsburgh-based theater company Prime Stage Theatre's staging of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” next month at the New Hazlett Theater on the city's North Side. Prime Stage Theatre, a nonprofit in its 20th year, aims to promote literacy through the theater.

“We hope to have students recognize how literature affects their life,” said Tim Devin, a member Prime Stage's board of directors. Devlin, who regularly establishes global classroom connections, said he wants students to “recognize diversity and how different cultures bring literature to life.”

Devlin said the students in both locations are excited for the experience.

“The students in Belfast are tremendously curious about life in the U.S., and I think the students in Belfast will really intrigue the Pine-Richland students,” Devlin said.

Several actors from the Prime Stage production will attend the Pine-Richland event to speak to the students about their performances.

Nearly 200 hundred Pine-Richland students participate in theater programs each year, including the International Thespian Society's fall play and the school's spring musical.

“Theater allows all kids, — any kids, any color, any gender, any mindset – to come together and work with one vision in mind, one project, and they all connect with each other,” Dolphin said.

Ashley Murray is a freelance writer.

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