Seniors Mauricio Garcia married Kimberly Mejia for their AP English Literature final. The nuptials cinched their grades in the class, given their successful acting in the performance House of Dombey, a showcase based on the Charles Dickens novel, Dombey and Son. As seniors Garcia, who played Mr. Dombey, Mejia, who played Edith Granger, and their peers ignited the narrative of a Victorian patriarch's doomed marriage and of his redemption through the love and acceptance of his daughter, they concluded Foshay High School’s annual Dickens Day & Night, an eclectic event where seniors bring their study of the annual Dickens Universe novel to life for their campus and community. Serving as students’ “final examination,” the event was aimed to challenge attendees with the concepts of the domestic sphere and of gender norms using writing, art, and music, in tandem with their performance of House of Dombey.
Leading up to the performance, a glittering collaborative mural invited visitors to respond to one of the novel’s most resonant questions: What is money? A live Twitter feed brought Dickensian learning to the World Wide Web, and a roving podcaster recorded Foshay students and staff as they narrated sentences from the first chapter of Dombey and Son for his blog.
Seniors could be spotted serving cups of tea to over 200 visitors at their Grand Victorian Tea, where guests’ service included personalized doilies inscribed with Victorian slang (“Skilamalink” – shady or dubious; “Sling a slobber” – To kiss) and excerpts from Victorian etiquette books (“Ladies do not expect visitors before two, nor after five”). Students’ projects continually employed such household items to highlight the novel’s genre--domestic fiction. In addition to the doilies featured at Victorian tea, students created mixed-media sculptures by assembling miniature chairs to represent characters, quotes, or themes from the novel; some of the most unique creations were even purchased by guest bidders. Students also satirized the concept of the “marriage market” by staging an auction of “animals” in original face paint and formal wear, and dramatized the concept of materialism by staging frozen tableaus representing moneyed and disaffected aristocracy.
The cast of the performance itself brought Dickens’ famously eccentric characters to life, from the conniving Major Bagstock (played by Ashley Navarro, 16) to the aging but determined flirt, Cleopatra Skewton (played by Angela Juarez, 17). Student musicians composed music and arranged a wide array of songs, from Mendelssohn’s Wedding March to Pink Floyd’s Money to accompany the performance. It was a remixed, recycled, and revolutionary twenty-first century take on, well, reading the novel. As one senior remarked, “I never thought a final--well, learning--could be this much fun.”