Sometimes you just need to laugh. With that thought in mind, an eight person team of students and faculty selected Neil Simon’s “Rumors” for this spring’s theater department offering. At the time, the committee had no idea of the importance the selection would eventually have.
Setting the Stage
Visual and Performing Arts Department Director Paige Gagliano says “Rumors” is hysterical. She remembers first watching the show on Broadway and laughing so hard her head hurt. To elicit those laughs everything about this farce has to be just right from the set doors opening and closing to the blocking of the 10 person cast. “Timing has to be impeccable,” says Gagliano. With three separate casts for a total of 30 performers, there is much to work out. Gagliano says assistant director and Episcopal senior Emily Lynch has done a tremendous job working out the little details. The cast has also given their all to the effort.
“We have been working extremely hard on this play and it means so much to all of us, so to be able to bring it to people and hear their feedback is one of the many reasons why I love acting!” India Lathan, junior
India Lathan may be relatively new to acting, but she has always had an interest in theater. “I never thought I wanted to pursue the performing arts, it was always something that I just loved to analyze, I never thought I would end up there until last year,” she says. India performed in her first play in Episcopal’s Black Box Theater last year. “I loved every part of it and that was when I knew I wanted to keep doing theatre!” India plays Claire in “Rumors” and says she hopes to one day minor or double major in theater.
“I gave it a chance, and it turned out to be one of my favorite experiences in high school.” Abhay Basireddy, senior
Senior Abhay Basireddy is also new to the performing arts. He says he never thought about participating until it was time to fulfill an arts credit. He enrolled in the play production class and enjoyed the experience so much that he’s now portraying Ken in “Rumors.” “It’s a truly unique experience in terms of being authentic, creating a grand production from nothing but yourselves, finding an overwhelmingly supportive and accepting community, and making lots of close friends and connections with others, having a ton of fun along the way,” he says. Basireddy says after his own theater experience he recommends that other students give the arts a try. “I never considered myself an ‘arts kid’ or ‘theatre kid,’ but after I joined, I don’t want to leave.”
A common theme among the arts is the sense of community that is created from spending hours together rehearsing scenes and reviewing lines. This sense of togetherness is so important that Gagliano builds time for cast bonding into each meeting. Both India and Abhay say that feeling of community is the best part of the experience. “The cast of ‘Rumors’ has been one of the most accepting, authentic, and inclusive communities I’ve found on campus,” says Abhay. “The best part of this experience has been gaining a family and meeting people I never thought would have been interested in theatre,” says India. “Everyone is so sweet and supportive; they all truly care about this community and will stop at nothing to show it.”
Honoring a Legacy
This year’s play and cast have an unexpected connection to the original group of Episcopal thespians who first performed “Rumors” in 1995. Weeks ago, as Gagliano began distributing scripts and relating the background of the play, she had no idea that the student initially responsible for producing the play at Episcopal had passed away from a tragic incident. Dr. Lindley Spaht Dodson died at the physician’s office where she worked on the same day that the scripts with her handwritten notes were given to the current generation of Episcopal actors and actresses. Now the current production of “Rumors” is a way to honor Lindley who was inspired to bring the play to Episcopal her senior year. “We leave a little of ourselves everywhere and she certainly left an imprint on me,” Gagliano says of Lindley, who she describes as “joyful, loving, empathetic, caring and fun.” The original “Rumors” production was co-directed by Gagliano and former Episcopal theater director Danny Tiberghein, who was also lost in tragedy. Gagliano says she referenced Tiberghein’s binder and notes when re-introducing the play this year.
“What you do here matters,” says Gagliano. “You’re not simply passing through. You leave a mark on this place.” This year’s cast will honor the contributions of Lindley during the April 17th performance. There are photos and memorabilia sprinkled throughout the set, and the original cast members have recorded video messages of what the play meant to them all those years ago.
Congratulations to our senior thespians! These students are ready to give it their all in the Episcopal presentation of “Rumors.” Evan Meek as Lenny Gantz, Martha Rhodes as Chris Gorman, Madi Bell as Cookie Cusack, Andrea Norwood as Cookie Cusack, Marshall Pentes as Dr. Ernie Cusack, Charlie Roth as Lenny Gantz, Allen Stewart as Glenn Cooper, Emily Lynch Assistant Director and Abhay Basireddy as Ken Gorman. Don’t miss your chance to support these students on stage
On Saturday, March 27th, the Episcopal alumni community was welcomed back to campus for Alumni Weekend. This year’s event was held outdoors with a picnic-style theme. Attendees enjoyed BBQ, gelato, live music and games for the kids. Alumni were given tours of campus by Class of 2021 senior ambassadors. We also incorporated our first Alumni Memorial Walk along the Coach Dupe Trail, which honored those alumni we recently lost.
While we know this year many have faced hurdles and struggles, we were excited to be able to create and offer this reimagined event for all of our alumni. We hope to see even more of you next year as we continue to encourage and support this wonderful and impactful alumni community. #reuKnighted #alwaysaknight
Please join us in congratulating members of the Class of 2021 as they announce their college enrollment decisions.
I'm so excited to put everything I have into this sport every day! It means all of the sacrifices and hard work will have paid off, and I am so incredibly excited to take this new journey!" Brooke Sandefur, Class of 2021
Senior Brooke Sandefur’s new journey will take her to Centenary College where she has signed on to play for the Centenary softball team. Brooke has played softball her entire life and was even coached by her dad at one point. Recently, the game has taken on more importance for her. “It’s been in the past two years that I’ve gotten serious about it and played competitively.”
Choosing Centenary made sense for Brooke. “I feel like Centenary was the right school for me because they have very high academic standards and an amazing educational program for their students,” says Brooke regarding her selection. “Their coaches have always been very supportive and always push me to do my best, on or off the field.” Knights Head Softball Coach Heidi Hebert is proud of what Brooke has achieved. “Brooke is one of the hardest working individuals I have coached,” she says. “She is a great athlete and competitor. She never gives up, sees everything as a challenge and will not stop until she has accomplished her goal. Brooke is a true leader. She leads by example and has truly taken a leadership role on our team. I wish I had been able to coach Brooke all four years of her high school career. She will definitely be missed, but I know she will do great things at Centenary and I can’t wait to watch her play.”
As Brooke looks toward her future, she offers compelling advice for classmates who may dream of a similar path. “My advice to other students who wanted to play at the next level would be to never quit, to be passionate about the game, and to always leave the field with a smile,” she says.
Brooke certainly has much to smile about as she prepares for this next step. She plans to study psychology while continuing to compete in the game she has loved for so long. Congratulations, Brooke! We can’t wait to see where this new journey takes you!
Read more about other Episcopal athletes moving on to compete at the next level by clicking the names below:
Each spring, sixth grade students learn about the water cycle and the global challenges that exist for many trying to access clean water. Students read “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park which follows the story of Nya and Salva as they deal with these challenges and more. Science teacher Stacy Hill says the story makes an impression on Episcopal students with many of them asking insightful questions like “Why can’t we just send them water?”.
To incorporate a hands-on science experience within the lesson, Hill traditionally tasks students with developing a water filtration system. However, with current pandemic protocols impacting science lab practices, the lesson had to be adjusted. Hill turned to technology and the expanded space available in the QUEST Center in Foster Hall.
The assignment: Program a Sphero robot to carry 50 milliliters of water to a "pond" and back
Before students began delivering water, they learned more about programming the little bots. Hill says for the most part the tech-savvy sixth graders had no problem directing the robot to successfully perform the commands. Once the programming capabilities were established, students spent several class periods designing a device to move the water. Each team received the same materials to bring their idea to life. What resulted was a collection of robots with widely differing features.
On water delivery day, Hill taped multiple obstacle courses on the Great Hall floor and used a tarp to create the pond. Through trial and error, students made adjustments until the robots made it to the goal without dropping the precious cargo. Along the way, students cheered on their robots with many students naming their creations. As robots Josh and Billy Bob zipped across the course, the young programmers were focused and engaged, proving that the new twist was a great addition.
Lower School was hopping with Easter excitement as students celebrated the upcoming holiday. Students enjoyed egg hunts, class parties and the Kindergarten/Senior Buddy celebration. These photos are sure to make you smile. Happy Easter, Knights! Enjoy your spring break!
Kindergarten/Senior Buddy Egg Hunt
Dressed for Spring
Egg Hunt Time!
“With Clemson being my dream school, I knew immediately when I had received my acceptance letter that I would be attending,” Tristen Rigby, Class of 2021
When you know, you know, and Tristen Rigby has that confidence about his decision to attend Clemson University and walk on to the school’s championship-caliber football team. “Clemson is the right fit for me because it is the environment that I want to be in,” he says. “It benefits me in higher education and character building.” Tristen, who plans to major in mechanical engineering with the goal of becoming an aeronautical/aerospace engineer, says the opportunity to play sports was not the primary reason for selecting Clemson. He values the academic program the school provides, and the chance to suit up for the Tigers is a bonus. “I get goosebumps and my heart accelerates every time I think of stepping onto campus, going to practice, seeing a full capacity Death Valley with roaring fans, and so much more,” says Tristen.
Hard Work Pays Off
Tristen was a member of the Knights football team all four years of Upper School. Before that, he played a year with the Baton Rouge Raiders in the BREC youth football league. Episcopal head football coach Travis Bourgeois says Tristen has certainly earned the opportunity to continue his football journey. “We have never had a player make every summer workout for four years,” he says. “Tristen became the first. That tells you about his commitment and dedication.” That hard work paid off, and Bourgeois says Tristen had an outstanding senior season in which he contributed in every phase of the game. Knights strength coach Wally Stevens congratulates Tristen on accomplishing his goal. “For someone as committed to being a good teammate as Tristen is and the amount of work he puts in, I am so happy that he gets to have this opportunity,” he says. “He deserves this and then some.”
In addition to working hard on the football field, Tristen also competes on the Knights’ track & field team. He was a member of the band his freshman and sophomore years, and he competes with the Mu Alpha Theta math club.
Advice for Classmates
Now that Tristen’s dream of attending Clemson has become a reality, he offers the following advice for classmates with a similar goal. “First, find your why,” he says. “If you are not wanting to be better at what you do, then why are you doing it? Second, do not try to be anybody else. Be yourself in the game and in life. Have fun while you are in the moment. Third, always work to be better. Work hard today because tomorrow is never guaranteed, so make the most out of every second. There is always room for improvement. And lastly, have respect. Have respect for the people who helped you, compete against you, and for yourself.” Great advice from a graduating senior!
Join us in congratulating Tristen on achieving his dream. Wish him well in the comments section below.
Read more about other Episcopal athletes moving on to compete at the next level by clicking the names below:
Communication in History: The Key to Understanding
Episcopal students had tremendous success at the National History Day Baton Rouge Regional Competition. This year’s theme was “Communication in History: The Key to Understanding.” Congratulations to the following students.
Senior Group Exhibit
1st place – Communication in Social Media by Mary Ann Crawford and Haley Wright
2nd place – Black Lives Matter: Protesting in Sports by Cameron Butler, Grant Gueho, JaMarcus Parker and Parker Rozas
3rd place – The Invention of the Telephone by Avery Barylak, Logan Burge and Claire Kiesel
4th place – Impact of the iPhone by Nic Chrest, Wade Roberie and Benton Searles
Senior Group Documentary
2nd place – The Communication of Beauty through History by Francie Oliver, Lucy Pellegrin and Caroline Wilcox
3rd place – Spies, Codes, and Sabotage by Marigny Albery, Alexandria Streuli and Millie Veillon
Senior Group Performance
1st place – History of Dance by Jane Crawford and Anna Katherine Harrell
Senior Individual Exhibit
2nd place – Propaganda During World War II by Brandon Franks
3rd place – How Communicating with Spirits have Changed throughout the Years by Donald Newton
4th place – How Computer Coding Changed History by Caden Gardner
1st place – Finding Light in Gaza by Mira Badawi
2nd place – Failure of Communication: The Tuskegee Syphilis Study by Analise Hyde
Former History Day Participant Works Toward Social Studies Distinction
Junior Isabella Ruiz who participated in the History Day competition last year was recently an eighth grade guest teacher. Isabella shared what she learned about the Cuban revolution and refugee crisis. The topic is a part of Ruiz’s family story as her grandmother immigrated from Cuba years ago. Ruiz shared the History Day documentary she created to tell that story with the Middle School students. Ruiz’s teaching experience is part of her effort to earn a social studies distinction.
Mu Alpha Theta State Convention Results 2021
On March 27th, 34 students (including four Middle School students) attended the 2021 Mu Alpha Theta State Convention. This hybrid tournament included a virtual “speed round” where Episcopal students competed against students from across the state and an in-person round hosted by Catholic High School. Episcopal placed 3rd in the state, behind only Catholic High School and Brother Martin of New Orleans, both 5A schools! Individual and Team Results are as follows.
Youth Legislature Success
Youth Legislature produces future leaders! Eighth graders Ryder Bond and Scarlett Spender were elected to leadership positions by their peers. Ryder was elected Governor and Scarlett was voted as President of the Senate.
Take a peek into the Lower School classrooms and you’ll see authors hard at work. In PreK-3, a voice rings out with joy. “It’s about Brazil and I have monkeys and banaynays!” Another student shares his story, “Lava is hot and the dinosaur is getting wiped out!” This excitement for writing is nurtured from the very beginning of a child’s school experience at Episcopal.
Everyone is an Author
In PreK-3 and PreK-4, writing time is referred to as “Bookmaking,” and teaching is centered around practices from experts in Early Childhood literacy. At this age, children aren’t typically ready to “write,” but they have lots of stories to tell through pictures and spoken words. As their phonemic awareness begins to grow, scribbles and symbols evolve into written letters and sounds. Teachers model how to make a book through short mini lessons and students are sent off to create their stories, while teachers circulate the room to guide the children through their work.
In kindergarten, students are ready to begin Writing Workshop. Writing Workshop is a student-centered framework for teaching writing that is based on the idea that students learn to write best when they write frequently, for extended periods of time, on topics of their own choosing. For our younger students, the emphasis is on the process of writing. Each lesson begins with a short mini lesson and then the teacher sends students off to their desks to write. Teachers provide support through small-group work and conferring, with multiple opportunities for personalizing instruction to teach writing skills specifically and purposefully.
Writing Workshop progresses through fifth grade. Students engage in several units of study throughout the school year, variations of narrative writing, informational writing, and opinion writing. Closely following the Units of Study for Writing Workshop, students develop their writing skills not only in content but also in organization, craft, grammar, spelling, and conventions. Students also become comfortable with the writing process: draft, revise, edit, and publish. At the end of each writing unit, students celebrate their publications in unique and special ways.
Authors Write for a Purpose
Students learn that when an author writes a text, he or she has a purpose for writing. Sometimes, the purpose is to simply entertain or tell a story. Other times, the purpose is to inform the reader of something. Often, the author is attempting to make an argument or share an opinion, in hopes of persuading the reader to his or her point of view regarding a topic.
In their most recent Unit of Study, first graders have been learning about the genre of persuasive writing by writing reviews. The Lower School hallway filled up with their reviews of restaurants, video games, chapter book series and even a review about Episcopal. These reviews caught the attention of fourth grade teacher, Rosalyn Won, who noticed one review, in particular, written by Mason Pizzolato about his favorite restaurant, Bistro Byronz. He encouraged people to go visit the restaurant because, “ What’s on the menu is so good. They have fettuccine, cheese fries, and chips with cheese.” Bistro Byronz is one of Mrs. Won’s favorite restaurants, too, and she knows the owner of the restaurant, Emelie Alton. Mrs. Won took a picture of Mason’s writing to show her friend the great review he had written. Mrs. Emelie was so impressed by Mason’s writing that she reached out to Mrs. Won to deliver a gift card to Mason. Mrs. Won, Mason and Lower School Division Head, Beth Gardner, spoke with Mrs. Emelie via FaceTime. She enjoyed hearing about Mason’s experience at Bistro Byronz and offered him the VIP treatment next time he visits the restaurant.
Other students were called out for their excellent work as well. Rosalie Gautreaux was recognized by La Carreta for her shining review of their restaurant. She touted the restaurant calling it, “the best because they have a big variety of food that you can get.” She also promoted that, “When it’s your birthday, they sing to you.” A copy of her review was posted on the restaurant’s social media page, as well as in the restaurant, and she was also awarded a gift card.
Third graders wrote persuasive letters to the Lower School Division Head, Beth Gardner. Requests ranged from a later start time for the school day to permission to play two touch football at recess. While requests are not always able to be granted, in past years, students have successfully declared Wednesdays a “No Homework Day” for the Lower School, a tradition that has continued to this day.
Authors Write What They Know
As writers mature, they begin to develop stories with a more personal connection. Fifth graders in Mrs. Engstrom’s English class wrote memoirs last fall. Students described how the process helped them grow as writers, as they used their personal experiences to connect with others who might be experiencing similar feelings or struggles.
One student wrote about his struggle with the regret he felt after quitting the basketball team mid-season. “I thought I wasn't good at basketball. I had this feeling of doubt and hopelessness and I thought of losing [a game] for my team when it never even happened. That thought haunted me like a monster does under your bed. So I quit the team and thought of my own self. I didn't know it then but it was a big mistake.”
Another student described his journey as he pondered about what his future career might be. “One day me and my friends were riding around the neighborhood and we stopped and put our bikes down. Then one of my friends took out his phone and told me to follow him. We spent most of the day going around taking pictures of the sunset and lake in our neighborhood. Every picture I took made me feel happy and I felt like I really just wanted to take pictures my entire life, like a photographer. But the next day when me and my friends went around taking pictures it didn't feel the same as before. It wasn't making me as happy as the day before. I finally realized that photography was more of a hobby than career.”
Another fifth grader used her memoir as a platform to share some feelings that she had not been able to express before. “Embarrassment isn't that cloak you put on to hide in, it's that bright colored jacket you wear when you're embarrassed, that jacket that people see when they judge you. That jacket isn’t the reason you wanna cry, it’s the people laughing that make you want to cry. The people pointing, staring, and whispering about what you did. But as long as you're being yourself it doesn't matter what they think. 999.999% of the time they’re wrong anyways. So just be yourself.”
By creating a safe classroom environment, Mrs. Engstrom set the stage for students to be able to write with vulnerability, pushing them to grow on their journey as writers.
Authors Publish their Work
Through their study of writers and books, PreK-3 students participated in different book studies from several authors like Eric Carle and James Dean, the author of the “Pete the Cat” series. They learned that books have pictures and words, that authors use every page in the book and how authors and illustrators work together to tell the whole story. Students were excited to learn that Elizabeth Kline, one of Episcopal’s own, published a children’s book during her tenure at Woman’s Hospital. Mrs. Kline visited the class to share her story, “The Very Best Birth Day,” and describe the process of writing and publishing her book. The young authors got to see how the story evolved from the proof pages to the hardcover book and were excited to ask Mrs. Kline many questions about being an author.
Growing young authors is a process. The foundation begins in a child’s earliest experiences in school and continues to build each year as students acquire the building blocks to be seasoned writers. All children have stories to share and giving them frequent opportunities to write stories of their choosing gives writers the confidence to share their stories with an audience, feeling successful and proud.
Julie Mendes, a 2001 graduate of Episcopal, received both her undergraduate degree and MEd in elementary education at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. She taught in Texas public schools and at a bilingual school in Gracias, Honduras before returning to teach PreK-4 at her alma mater in 2012. After 14 years in the classroom, she is excited to serve our youngest Knights in a new role as the Director of Early Childhood Programs. Julie resides in Madisonville with her husband, Scott, and bonus son, Owen.
"Our group has shown that you don’t have to do traditional research.” Abhay Basireddy, 2021 ESTAAR student
In an unusual year, three Episcopal seniors found a way to continue the scientific exploration they love through the ESTAAR or Episcopal Students Take Action in Advanced Research program. For several years now, ESTAAR has offered Upper School students the opportunity to work with LSU professors and gain valuable experience in a university laboratory. Past students have spent hours in the lab monitoring tests and measuring data. In a year so impacted by pandemic protocols, that traditional lab access was in question. Fortunately, the restrictions didn’t stop Abhay Basireddy, Matthew Bickham and Gregory Field as their fields of interest didn’t require traditional lab time. “The stars aligned for them,” says Guillory. “They didn’t lose out as much as another group would have.” The trio successfully completed their projects and recently presented them on the VPAC stage on LAUNCH Day.
Application of the Fast Fourier Transform in Modeling the 3D Navier-Stokes Equations
Automatic Slab Creation and Flood Prevention within Autodesk Revit
Breath Monitoring: Analyzing Breathing with Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds
LAUNCHing Research on the VPAC Stage
“I’m proud of them,” says Guillory. “I’m proud of their work. They never faltered.” The ESTAAR LAUNCH Day presentations marked the culmination of a two year journey. Like all ESTAAR students, the trio initially began by taking the Scientific Research Methodology and Experimentation (SRME) course their junior year. The course is designed to help Upper School students prepare for college level research. The students say the SRME course prepared them well for the ESTAAR experience as they were equipped to write papers, conduct background research and digest scientific papers. No doubt, the past two years and the students’ innate inquisitiveness will prepare them for similar success in the next step of their educational journey.
The ESTAAR program is a great example of the science, technology, engineering and math offerings available at Episcopal. This commitment to STEM even earned the school a spot on Newsweek’s Top 500 STEM High Schools in America list. Read more about that ranking and other Episcopal STEM efforts here.
Join us in congratulating this year’s ESTAAR students in the comments section below!