Category Archives: Fine Arts

School programs in dance, music, theater, visual arts

Sankofa Takes Flight

Photo of 2012 Sankofa performance by Matt Nunez '12/ STAMPEDE

In its ninth year, annual production draws more attention than ever

Matt Nuñez ‘12 | Editor In Chief

“Sankofa” is a traditional African symbol representing a bird, or the saying, “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.”

As the Bishop McNamara African Dance program closes out its ninth annual Sankofa production, less and less is being forgotten.

Within 48 hours, and three weeks before opening night of “Kleopata,” this year’s production, tickets were sold out for all five performances over the weekend of March 8-March 11. This made it nearly impossible for many students to get tickets to support their friends and classmates.

“I’m really happy we’ve reached the point where the community embraces it,” said Mr. Victor Bah, African Dance teacher and Director of the annual Sankofa production. Coming to America eleven years ago, Mr. Bah did not expect anything close to the popularity the African Dance program has received over the years. When Sankofa began, it was a move to break away from the Dance department and their annual Spring production. While the Dance program incorporated some aspects of African Dance into their routines, it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain these traditions in the themes selected for the dance shows, Mr. Bah said. So, in 2003, the first Sankofa production, “Africa,” was performed by 18 students under the direction of Mr. Bah.

Mr. Bah said. So, in 2003, the first Sankofa production, “Africa,” was performed by 18 students under the direction of Mr. Bah.

This year’s program included 110 students, some who were part of the Sankofa Company, an elective course for main characters; and many more who are members of the African Dance levels one through four classes. The purpose of Sankofa is to highlight the dances that are rehearsed in the classes.

The story of Kleopata tells of the rise and fall of the last pharaoh of Egypt, Queen Cleopatra. Through deception and murder, Cleopatra rose to the throne, where she began loving relationships with Julius Caesar and later Marc Antony, who both succumbed to violent deaths, thus causing the downfall of Cleopatra and the Egyptian empire.

This year, the role of Cleopatra was split between seniors Ava McCoy and Rodneisha Gould, who took turns playing the lead and dancing in the ensemble.

“It’s really rare that you get to see raw African dance,” said Antonia Hill ‘12, who saw Sankofa for the first time this year. McNamara is not the only Holy Cross school to offer African Dance, but also the only school in the Archdiocese of Washington. Mr. Bah even claimed that throughout the entire country, there is not a single school he has heard of that has an African Dance program as robust as McNamara’s. “We don’t just dance; we tell stories with it,” Mr. Bah said.

The incredible success of Sankofa is due largely in part to the passion of the students involved, but it never would have succeeded without Mr. Bah’s vision. While Mr. Bah acknowledges that he could pursue further success in the show business, he does not forget his roots.

McNamara is the reason Mr. Bah came to America and he sticks around because he sees each year as a challenge to surpass the previous year. “All people should know their history, their culture, where they are coming from,” said Mr. Bah, and the goal is to take the past and use its lessons to progress in the future. Each year, Sankofa comes closer to fulfilling its full meaning, growing from a grassroots program to a cornerstone of McNamara’s identity; taking flight into the future but always remembering the past.

School Finishes Strategic Plan for 2011-2016

Megan Ardovini ‘13|News Editor

Bishop McNamara has released their new strategic plan for the 2011-2016 school years. With its completion, it encompasses our mission, our philosophy, our history, and our goals for the future advancement of the school.

A strategic plan simply outlines all the goals our school has for the

Bishop McNamara releases it's strategic plan

next five years as well as determines the overall direction in which we want to go. It is common for schools, businesses, and organizations to develop a plan for success periodically as their needs and direction may change. According to President and CEO Mr. Marco Clark, McNamara has not updated their strategic plan since the early 90’s, and with new challenges facing Catholic secondary education and new opportunities present it was time for an update.

This process began in the 2009-2010 school year, and a system of data collecting was conducted over the span of the last two years. Students, parents, graduates, parents of alum, faculty, and staff were all involved in this stage.There were listening sessions where information and feedback was collected from parents and alumni. The faculty and staff participated in full-day workshops in which they evaluated some of the data collected from the school community and shared feedback of their own.

A steering committee, including the president, principal, other administrators, and select members of the faculty and board of directors, was then formed to review this data and do an in-depth analysis of the school’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It was at this point that the four major themes of the strategic plan evolved. The four areas of focus were Charism and Culture; Academic Excellence for all Students by Educating Hearts and Minds; Infrastructure, Information Technology, Facility Management and Planning; and finally Institutional Advancement. Members of the faculty, staff, Board of Directors, and some parents served on the four committees responsible for drafting the goals that went along with each theme.

Kathy Newman, mother of Shane Kelly ‘12 and Justin Kelly ’13, was a parent who served on the committee regarding the theme of Academic Excellence for all Students by Educating Hearts and Minds. Her experience with the process was that it was an open-minded atmosphere and the different views were all heard. “[It was] a really good thing to have some parental view interjected,” Newman said, “I’m proud to be associated with this result.”

While most schools develop a strategic plan as a last resort or a life-raft when things go wrong, this is not the case with McNamara. Mr. Clark said the school’s goal for this process was to be “bold” and “visionary.” The new strategic plan can be found on the school website in the “About Us” section.

Theater Preview: Too Bad You Can’t Take It With You!

Spring play is expected to be a hit

Carolyn Conte ‘14
Staff Writer

The McNamara drama program is putting on You Can’t Take it With You as their annual spring play this year. Running from March 11-13, this Pulitzer prize-winning comedy is about an eccentric family who pursues their interests, hobbies and dreams no matter how odd they are, and about the story of what happens when one their daughters falls in love with a boy raised by a more “normal” house. McNamara’s rendition intends to entertain many and leave audiences with big smiles, starting opening night, March 11th.

Besides being funny, this play has moral themes hidden in it. The title, “You Can’t Take it with You” reminds audiences to consider the importance of tangible items. “The themes are really timeless. It shows a lot about the love of family, and emphasizes acceptance over materialism,” said director Ms. Mary Mitchell-Donahue. She’s also excited because “The characters are really great!”

“I always go! I love to. I think [McNamara plays] are really fun to watch. There’s so much talent, and I get to see a different side of my students, so it’s really fun,” said an animated Ms. Linda Corley of the Math Department. The last comedy by BMHS that she saw was Noises Off, from 2007. “It was one of the funniest things, it was hysterical! The kids really did a great job and pulled it off.”

The reason there hasn’t been a “modern day ha-ha,” as Ms. Donahue puts it, in a while, is “I want to expose students to a wide variety [of theatre] in the four years they are here. The same is true with musicals; there is a wide variety of composers the students are exposed to, so we aren’t just doing plays where it’s my favorite composer or something.”

“I’ve heard [McNamara plays] are really great and interesting, and that everybody should go see them,” said Bria Barber ‘13, who plans on seeing the much- awaited spring play.

The actors and actresses have been preparing for the play since the week after auditions started on January 4th. “At auditions the kids get to learn a little about the play,” explained Ms. Donahue. But as soon as casting is assigned, “we get straight to work!”

Elana Geary ‘14, one of only two freshman who has a role in the play, is “most excited about the chemistry on stage, which is really good.” Elana, who plays Gay Wellington (she refused to divulge who this character is and insists you come find out March 11th!) exclaims that “everyone is so nice.” Her brother Stephen Geary ‘12, who portrays “Grandpa,” agrees that the “community” is his favorite part of being involved with the play. Stephen is a little worried about lines after “all the days we had off from school.” Ms. Donahue, on the other hand, said she anticipated snow days. “When I am creating the rehearsal schedule I anticipate… some setbacks, but I figure that into the schedule.” So, don’t worry: “The students are very hardworking, and really good at doing what they’re expected,” Ms. Donahue said.

Tickets are available now on the school’s website for $10 per lucky guest, or you can easily purchase tickets at the office or during lunches. “I hope that the audience comes and has a good time first and foremost, and that they get the message of the play. I also hope that the students learn all the techniques of theatre… and work together as a team and family,” said Ms. Donahue. “Please come see it!” encourages Elana.

McNamara Fine Arts Day: Choir, Dance perform at local church

By Brandon Joyner ‘11
Sports Editor

The Bishop McNamara Gospel Choir performed at Hunter Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church in Suitland, Maryland on February 20, 2011 for their black history performance. The two services were at 9:15 and 11:15. Many churchgoers came out to support the McNamara choir and dance programs on this day. The choir performed a medley of songs ranging from folk songs, to work songs and modern gospel music.

The service showed how far African Americans have come since being enslaved in Africa to now being free and opening doors for other races to have a say in this day and age. Members of the Jazz classes performed a dance to the famous Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” Speech as well for the services. For their performance, the church donated one-thousand dollars back to the McNamara choir program.