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Setting the stage for a role of theater

April 24, 2018 GMT

With any stage play, the audience is transported into a new world of characters introduced to them only moments ago. They buy into whatever the actors are trying to portray, and any thought of realism is lost.

One student who knows this feeling all too well is C.W. Henry School eighth-grader Aaliyah Abdur-Rashid.

“I always had a great imagination, even when I was younger” Abdur-Rashid said. “Even when I played with my toys as a kid, I would have full conversations with my dolls and set a scene for the characters. It was always an interest of mine to entertain people.”

Abdur-Rashid has been in her school’s theater program since the seventh grade. Last year, she played the role of Rafiki in “The Lion King.” This year, Abdur-Rashid will be gracing the stage again in the role of Motormouth Maybelle along with another student in “Hairspray.”

“It wasn’t until I was in the seventh grade that I knew this was something that I wanted to do,” Abdur-Rashid said. “It was in that grade that I started doing ‘The Lion King.’

“In the beginning, being a part of the play was just something that I wanted to do, but the more I went to the rehearsals the more I fell in love with theater itself. When I was on stage, I was not just a playing a role, I literally become the character,” she added.

“My music teacher, Ms. Paulino, along with my social studies teacher, Ms. Cantarini, helps everyone in the cast in various ways,” Abdur-Rashid said. “They are extremely supportive in everything that we do. They would give us pep talks before every show. They would also let us know what we’re doing wrong or give us pointers on how to do something better.

“As far as individually, they both let me know that this could be a possible career path for me. It doesn’t necessarily have to be film, but it could just be the stage or a drama teacher,” the seventh-grader said.

Abdur-Rashid says that being a student at Henry and being in the theater program has helped her grow both academically and personally.

“C.W. Henry has definitely helped me prepare for high school,” Abdur-Rashid said. “The homework they give us is definitely challenging. One of the many things I like about the school is that they teach us beyond our grade level. Even though I’m an eighth-grader, my teachers are already teaching me things that I will need to know as a freshman in high school.

“Because of my experience at Henry, I was also able to know what school I wanted to go to for high school,” she added. “I got accepted to the Creative and Performing Arts high school. I’m going to that school for drama. I knew since sixth grade that I wanted to go to CAPA, but I wasn’t sure what I would major in. At first, I was going to go there for vocals, but once I did ‘The Lion King’ play I knew then that I wanted to go there for drama.”

When asked what she would tell other students about her school, she simply stated: “Henry is a great school that provides you with strong academics, various programs and supportive teachers and staff. This school is a place where you can not only be yourself, but learn about yourself.”