(18th in a series of posts on H.D.)
Bethlehem-born writer Hilda Doolittle — H. D. — (1886-1961) is
the “Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure.”
I wanted to let you know about one of the exciting developments or off-shoots of our Finding H.D. community exploration. Amanda Riggle, English teacher at William Allen High School contacted me to see if we could do a “Finding H.D.” workshop at her school. I asked two of our actor-devisers (who are working with Doug and me on the new H.D. play) if they would be interested in running an H.D. theater workshop at Allen High School. Attached below is Amanda’s description of the workshop that Will Reichard-Flynn and Aidan Gilrain-McKenna ran at Allen High School this month [May].
H.D. Workshop at William Allen High School
Lehigh Valley residents Will Reichard-Flynn and Aidan Gilrain-McKenna, conducted a workshop on Thursday, May 2, 2019, at William Allen High School, using poetry by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), a Bethlehem native whose innovative and experimental poetry and prose established her as a leading Idealist/Modernist. H.D. is widely recognized today as a queer, feminist visionary from the early twentieth century. Approximately 40 students from grade 9-12 attended the hour and a half workshop, which was organized by English teacher, Mrs. Amanda Riggle, and science teacher, Ms. Rachel Zane.
Students sat in a circle and introduced themselves by name and by the pronouns they prefer to use when referencing themselves, such as he/him, she/her, and they/them. This introduction allowed them to see that not all people use the pronouns assigned to them at birth. After reading of “Sheltered Garden” by H.D., the students discussed some of the stanzas that stood out to them, including images of breaking free and nature.
However, the real connection to the writing began when they began using the movement to express the spoken word. Although some were a bit timid at first, many students got into the theatre exercises of portraying meaning using movement and shape to add to their synthesis of the text.
The final activity placed students into random groups, using excerpts of previously unread H.D. poetry. The objective was to have each group member participate in creating movement and shape in connection with the meaning of the lines from the poem’s excerpt. All the groups created original interpretations and seemed to enjoy the experience.
Overall, the workshop was a success, even with the initial hesitation of the students. This opportunity to see different topics of feminism, identity, and gender gave all the students insight into their own identities; some surprisingly gained the self-confidence to discuss and participate, while others held back, their self-esteem lacking in front of their peers. This workshop truly separated the leaders and followers, which was wonderful to experience as educators; this was a time for students to express who they truly are when faced with adversity. Some blossomed, while others felt shy, but the experience will hopefully resonate with all of them; these types of conversations are beneficial as they continue to educate long after they are over. These experiences of facing our own understanding will help break down barriers of discrimination, prejudice, and ignorance in the future.
Arrangements could not be made for the H. D. film on the “Finding H. D.” program, although the organizers are hoping for a showing later in the year. There will be some slight tinkering with dates for the showing of the original play in process, but otherwise the series continues as planned.