Class of 2021: A Literary Year In Review

Fall: Plato’s Republic

At the beginning of senior year, there’s a certain amount of excitement that comes with knowing that while it’s the beginning of the year, it’s also the beginning of the end. A strange equilibrium is struck between the excitement of a new year after summer break, yet at the same time, nothing can really compare to what’s coming in a few short months.

No matter how much the class of 2021–or any group of seniors–might think they know or believe they’re prepared for, there is still a lot to be learned. College application deadlines loom. In some cases, other future plans hover with uncertainty. Given the weight of these decisions, provokes some important questions: who am I? What am I working towards? What makes a just society, and what’s my place therein?

Plato’s Republic is thus aptly timed as the first senior reading assignment of the year.  This timeless work makes an effort to answer all of the above questions. Socrates dialogues with various citizens throughout the piece in an effort to discern what makes a just society and what is required to attain that justice for oneself as well as others. 

Bobby Hughes ‘21 commented on this theme of justice by saying, “I believe this is a virtue everyone needs in their life in order to truly live a good and holy life. Knowing right and wrong and being able to choose the right is a very important task every human must undertake.”

Providence opens its doors at the beginning of the fall, eager to help the class of 2021 complete their high school career (PAW photo courtesy of Mrs. Rachel Hope).

Winter: Crime and Punishment by: Fydor Dostoyevsky

After The Republic, most college applications are due. After a month passes by filled with only a few short literary piece, November arrives, and with it, senior speeches, thoughts of coming finals, and the next sizeable text in the English curriculum: Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment takes the themes explored in Plato’s Republic and puts them into practice. In a world of cold and bitter winters not unlike Plymouth’s and Russia on the brink of a communist revolution, a young academic struggles to come to terms with his actions and the repercussions they have on those around him, friend or foe. 

Stephanie Lanterman ‘21 noted that Crime and Punishment was her favorite book in the course for the very reason that it explores just how far one is willing to go in order to pursue what one believes to be just. “It was a psychological thriller that provided advanced insights into what a murderer thinks and how he chose to execute his plan. It taught me that not everyone thinks the same and that not everyone possesses the same moral compass.”

Snow on the campus gives Providence a dream like feeling, a warm glow in winter’s chill (PAW photo courtesy of Mrs. Rachel Hope).

Spring: The Wasteland by: T.S. Eliot

“April is the cruellest month”, Eliot writes in The Wasteland, and by the time the class of 2021 read those words, they couldn’t help but agree. Most had made their decisions in regards to which college they will attend, and even those who hadn’t quite decided yet had gotten fairly close. Such decisions grossly overshadowed things like school and literature and brought out a particular indifference that isn’t unusual for the class of 2021.

However, by discussing The Wasteland, the class of 2021 was able to make sense of the apathy around them and rise above it, given that Eliot’s piece deals largely with making sense of tragedy through various perspectives presented in his poetry. By taking seemingly unrelated events and memories from a world torn by World War I, Eliot paints a picture of life at its rawest and most complicated while still holding onto the hope of rebirth and forgiveness.

Graduation: The Old Man and the Sea

The final book examined by the class of 2021 was one that actually hadn’t been on the curriculum for a while: Earnest Hemingway’s masterpiece The Old Man and the Sea. “I’ve taught the piece once before, though I don’t believe I taught it successfully,” admitted senior literature teacher and English department chair Adam Schmalzbauer, “but I believe it was worth the challenge this year.”

What makes this story such a challenge?  Schmalzbauer commented that while the plot is deceptively simple, there is a lot more to the story than, as the title suggests, an old man and the sea. Instead, it’s a story of loving until there is no more love to give, and the justice that inevitably comes from patience. 

“I’m preparing the seniors to write at the academic level of their collegiate futures to be sure, but I’m also preparing them to write on a moral level, too.” Schmalzbauer concluded.

Everyone’s Talking About Toilets

The bathroom. It’s the one place that most people can go to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether intentional or not, the bathroom is seen as a sanctuary, somewhere one is truly able to be alone with one’s thoughts. What most people don’t realize is that in one of the bathrooms of Providence’s Upper School, there are some new, thought provoking media to keep folks living the examined life, as Socrates suggested, at a rather unexpected moment.

At the beginning of this school year, a series of posters with the name “Toilet Talk” were introduced to the bathrooms on the third floor near the lit department. These posters change every month, and the topics they address vary from difficult issues like cyberbullying to more positive themes like self esteem. While this is all fine and well, their sudden appearance has raised some questions. How did they get here? Why are they here? Who put them there, and for what reason? After some investigation, answers have come to light.

As of late posters with the name of “Toilet Talk” have made an appearance in bathrooms throughout the upper school.

The mysterious posters originated from a group of individuals known as the Counselor Clique, a group of high school counselors across the country who support one another and offer advice regarding high school counseling. Whether it’s tips for college applications or decorations for the counselor’s office, the Counselor Clique has counselors covered.

Mrs.Kesney McCarthy, Upper School counselor, decided to utilize the Counselor Clique’s wide variety of tools in order to better help students face their daily challenges. The Toilet Talk posters are intended to make mental health issues more accessible, and less taboo.

“With everything that goes on in day to day life, it’s very important to take care of oneself,” McCarthy explained. “And sometimes just seeing a poster with information is the best way to get the conversation started.”

The posters are located in the stalls of the bathroom, and with their bright color schemes, cartoon pictures, and links to websites with more information, they provide a fun and interesting way to learn about important topics such as self care, internet etiquette, and positive changes that can be made in the community in order to create a better high school experience for everyone.

Michael Collins 21 commented on the recent appearance of the posters, saying, “They offer a lot of interesting information on topics that are important for maintaining  a good school experience. They’re a little wordy, but effective.”

One thing that has perhaps led to not enough recognition for these helpful posters is their unfortunate position in the bathroom stalls. In order to view the posters one has to lock oneself in the stall to get a good look. While this may be effective while using the bathroom, attempts to share the information could be awkward. 

Abby Rossini ‘21 reflected on the posters in the bathroom, “I think the intentions of the posters are good; the positions just aren’t as accessible as one might hope.”

In spite of this, the general reception of the Toilet Talk posters is quite positive. If nothing else, they provide something interesting to think about regarding mental health and self care and facilitate positive changes for students and their community.

While the Toilet Talk posters may be new, old favorites reminding bathroom goers to wash their hands are still there and alive as ever.

Can’t Repeat the Past? Of Course You Can!

 “You can’t repeat the past? But of course you can!” Is the sentiment that Jay Gatsby gives his neighbor, Nick Carraway. For nearly a century now, the dazzling world of The Great Gatsby has enchanted readers young and old, pulling them into a world of lavish parties, forbidden affairs, and the elusive American dream. And now, it will be easier than ever to enjoy Gatsby and his world, given that this year is the year that The Great Gatsby enters public domain.

But what exactly is public domain and why does it matter? Public domain is a common phrase to denote forms of media that are no longer subject to copyright law. This means that anyone can make an adaptation, quote, or variation of the media in question without having to face the penalties or fines associated with copyright infringement. 

For the longest time, Gatsby and his story were under lock and key of the Fitzgerald Foundation, meaning that very few if any adaptations were made. This scarcity meant that while the story was a classic, it wasn’t as easily accessible to those interested in reading it or exploring the lore of the roaring twenties. However, given that the piece officially turns ninety five this year, the copyright has expired and Gatsby now lives in public domain among Dickens, Agatha Christie, and A. A. Milne’s works.

Mrs. Hejna, one of the upper school literature teachers, commented on the positive benefits of having Gatsby in the public domain. “I think all the PA English teachers would agree that this is a great book, and the more we can get great books into the hands of the public, the better!” she stated.

Along with getting the book into more people’s hands, Gatsby’s newfound accessibility also opens the doors for more adaptations of the story to hit the stage. The number of plays, musicals, and even ballets using the concept of Gatsby can skyrocket now that more amateur and semi-professional companies can perform this classic, rather than just Broadway.  But the stage isn’t the limit.  If rumors are to be believed, there might even be a Muppets version of Gatsby coming to the big screen.

“The Muppets have potential to bring a really creative twist to this story,” Elliot Tomashko ‘21 enthused, “it might be funny and provide an interesting commentary about the characters and the story line.”

Besides adaptations of the original story, there is also now potential for prequels and sequels, given that the characters and the world that they live in are no longer bound by copyright. Renowned author Michael Farris Smith’s newest novel, Nick: A Novel, is one such work.  Nick follows the story of the ethereal narrator Nick Carraway and his life before he met Gatsby in a sweeping international adventure in a world torn apart by World War One.

Nick: A Novel serves as an intriguing and thought provoking prequel to the beloved classic, The Great Gatsby

What readers know of Nick is currently colored by Gatsby.  “Nick: A Novel sounds like a good idea because it gives a different perspective on the world and it will allow us to know more about Nick without the influence of Gatsby,” Ava Vetter ‘21 stated.

Arguably the most important part of having Gatsby in public domain is that it will inspire creativity for many more years to come. While it’s by no means the greatest book ever written, its messages of hope, love, and optimism in the face of insurmountable odds is timeless and thanks to Gatsby and his now more accessible world, will live on forever.

Leo DiCaprio as Gatsby in Luhrmann’s 2013 film rendition of Fitzgerald’s classic raises a toast to his neighbor Nick Carraway and a bright future. (Photo courtesy of

Introducing Zoë

Self discovery. These two words play such a big role in our experience as human beings. With college decisions to be made and essays to be written in particular, senior year is one of the more pertinent times to be asking these questions as to better shape one’s future. However, when tasked with pursuing these abstract, complicated questions alone, it can seem daunting, even unattainable.

Luckily, Providence Academy college counseling has found a way to alleviate any stress that may come with the adventure of self discovery by introducing a brand new personality software to the college curriculum; Zoë.

College counselor Mr. Estrada commented on Providence’s decision to integrate Zoë into college counseling curriculum. “Making the right choice in life, especially in college, is a very risky thing that people don’t want to make the wrong choice in. Zoë helps to alleviate some of this anxiety by making strengths and aptitudes more apparent to the students.”

Zoë is a software developed for the purpose of discovering more about oneself through a series of interactive quizzes and elaborate descriptions. By identifying your three core values as well as your top five Clifton strengths, which boil down personality to five concrete traits, Zoë helps people find direction by suggesting paths of study as well as things to pursue in the future that play to each person’s inherent strengths.

The Values finder, one of the first steps of the Zoe process, starts the brave adventurers on their journey. (Photo Courtesy Val Fish ’21)


Curt Hinkle, one of the creators of the software, summed up Zoë’s purpose to the seniors during the informational meeting held over the summer by saying, “This interface is different from most softwares like it because instead of giving the answers, it gives more of direction towards what is to come. In that way, Zoë’s like a toolbox that can be used to get somewhere like college or beyond.”

Another value that the Zoë platform pushes for is their users to find their “northish”, or rather which direction they want to go. It doesn’t have to be a definite direction or a solid answer; instead, it gives a good beginning to one’s journey.

The senior class of 2021 was the first ever class to take Zoë as a part of the college search experience. After beginning the Zoë journey during August boot camp and working on the exercises throughout the beginning of the school year, senior students were invited to partake in some commentary regarding the program as well as some sweet treats in the ARC. They shared their positive experiences with the program.

“I think it was a very creative and introspective experience, and it provided a lot of unique insight,” Michael Collins ‘21 commented.

By incorporating Zoë into the college counseling program at Providence, students come closer to discovering their purpose in life, and  make a meaningful contribution to society.

Ella Flynn, ’22 begins her journey into self discovery by opening up her Zoe profile. (Photo courtesy of Val Fish, ’21)

PA Theatre: Coming to a Living Room Near You!

It’s show time! The day of the show is usually a bustling and busy couple of hours of final preparations. The backstage area of the PAC is abuzz with spontaneous karaoke sessions, hair and makeup crew members are attempting to bribe reluctant fashionistas into putting on less agreeable costume and makeup, and the air is thick with an undeniable energy and excitement.

Seniors Stephanie Momanyi and Marie Leggott have an intense moment during recording (Photo courtesy of Olivia Bissonette)

Last weekend, however, didn’t bring the same atmosphere. New actors and veterans alike were thrilled to be back in the swing of things, but there were no costumes to be had, not even a set. Instead, the eight members of Providence Academy’s fall show took their place at a small configuration of seats with microphones and tried their best to make the story of Blithe Spirit come to life with their voices and a few key sound effects.

In response to the recent COVID 19 pandemic, the Upper School theatre department made a major change in order to have their show. They decided to take the fall play, which was already slated to have a small cast in order to remain in COVID restrictions, and make it a radio show. This meant that there would be no set or costumes, just the actors sitting and giving their lines. One student  provided all of the sound effects that would have otherwise been visualized under normal circumstances. Some were simply audio files utilized when the script called for it, like glasses breaking or a record playing. Others, like the sound of tapping on the table or the table falling over were created live by the actors.

For several of the actors, this method of acting was an entirely new approach in the sense of characterization and how they were going to bring these ghosts, mystics, and hopeful authors to life. 

“After all, they can’t see me,” leading man Joseph Uzelac, ‘22, reflected. “I have to find ways to convey in my voice that I’ve sat down or that I’m pacing. It puts far more pressure on me as the actor to create just as memorable of an experience for the audience.” 

Sophomore Lauren McGill keeps everyone on track during recording and also provides sound effects (Photo courtesy of Olivia Bissonette)

Director Melissa Simmons agreed with this statement with one of her final notes before recording day. “This is an entirely different skillset that we’ve had our players learn and experiment with,” she stated. “It’s not at all what we expected to be doing this year, but everyone involved has done an excellent job of adjusting accordingly.” 

Another major deviation from traditional plays that sets radio plays apart is the inclusion of a narrator to read the lines of stage directions, things that would otherwise be acted out by the actors onstage. This was a bit of an adjustment for actors, who were used to skipping the stage directions in the readings of the show, but it gave the cast a chance to truly understand what was going on in any given scene. The addition of a narrator also allowed a new character to be introduced to an already small cast and another voice to be added.

One of the hardest things about doing a show during COVID is the limited number of people who can be involved with the show. While PA theatre works hard to include everyone who wants to be a part of the show, it’s not always possible to cast everyone who tries out. In order to compensate for this, there was a second, shorter show that was put together with the actors who weren’t a part of Blithe Spirit. This ensured that everyone who wanted to share their talents could, and made a new experience for audience members to enjoy.

Overall, the show was a great success, in spite of the different situation of this year. Audience members were able to enjoy the hard work of the Providence Academy players from the comfort of their own homes, and there was the added bonus of no paid admissions.

“This probably wasn’t at all what these kids were planning to do for their fall show, but they did an awesome job with what they were given,” one audience member, a neighbor of one of the cast members of Blithe Spirit enthused. “I’m so glad that I was able to listen to and enjoy the show in spite of everything.”

Though it was by no means the ideal method of having the fall play, the radio play of Blithe Spirit was the perfect thing to get people back into the swing of something normal. Though the virus has changed so, so many things this year, it was a beacon of hope to know the old saying remains true: the show must go on.

Seniors Stephanie Momanyi, Val Fish, and Marie Leggott celebrate a job well done and the end of their final fall play.