Student Access with Mara Stern

by Northlight Theatre

Mara Stern
Education Associate and Camp Director


We sat down and spoke with Education Associate and Camp Director Mara Stern to talk about the success of Student Access for our recent production of Faceless.  Mara directs the Season Access program which includes organizing student matinees, leading talk-backs with students and audiences and conducting in-school workshops.

How does theatre or the arts play a role in classrooms?

Theatre is so important in Chicago Classrooms. CPS uses a program called Facing History and Ourselves to teach about the history of racism, sexism and anti-semitism in this country. This is a tool both to teach history and empathy. Theatre is the next level of teaching empathy. In theatre we literally put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. If the goal is to help students be more empathetic, and therefore understand both their history and their future, theatre in the classroom only bolsters that. This is of course just one facet of the goals we have with our classroom partners. Theatre also teaches independence, self confidence, social skills, and many other cognitive abilities.

Why do you think Faceless grabbed so much teacher attention?

I think, especially after the election, teachers were interested in provided their students with a nuanced understanding of the world around them. Faceless provides us with both proof of the fear many people carry about people of the Muslim faith, while also dispelling many myths, and in a way turning the fear on its head. In a way it forced students to take a second look at interactions in their own lives.

After seeing Faceless, what did the students say or ask about the play?

The students were really taken with Susie. They connected on an intellectual and social level with her, which is something I thought was very different from our adult audiences. Students really related to Susie feeling lonely, and turning to the internet for help. They spent a lot of time thinking through how easily anyone could fall into the trap of radicalization. They were very curious too about Susie’s journey from a radical approach to Islam to a more traditional, complete sense of faith, and whether or not Claire still doubted her sincerity.