Up the Down Staircase: Gladly We Teach

Sydney Burns, Assistant Editor

Up the Down Staircase depicts a strong-willed teacher who encourages her students and strives to reach her fullest potential as a first-year English teacher. Filled with humorous comments and coming-of-age moments, this play is a story that demonstrates the value of education. Sylvia Barrett and her students show all of us the importance of education in the real world, despite the hardships. Well-fitted casting and a great set design really elevated the story and made it come to life. Overall, Up the Down Staircase portrays some of the struggles of high school while also providing an important message to its audience.

The first aspect of this play that stood out to me was its humor and witty comments, especially the scenes with the students adding to the suggestion box, the comments from the students in Miss Barrett’s classroom, and the individual dialogue with the school faculty and staff. They promoted laughter throughout the entirety of the play and made the audience feel engaged in its plot events. It really made everyone feel as if they were in the classroom as a part of the story. Also, despite only having one set in the play, I constantly had my eyes glued to the humor and plotline of the story. The cast members were each perfectly toned and matched to their characters’ personalities and it very much elevated the story. Although this play was on a smaller scale, it still did not fail to impress me on numerous levels.

The next aspect that caught my attention was the coming-of-age stories and learning moments in the lives of the characters, especially the story of Josie, who went from a shy and unsure teenager to a confident girl who finally found her voice in Miss Barrett’s class. Even Joe Ferrone was a character who went from a rebel into a student with endless potential. It warmed my heart to see the growth of the characters in this play and the effect that Miss Barrett had on them. Finally, the relationship between Miss Barrett and her students was one that really showcases the value of teachers to their students in the play and also in real life.

Even though there was humor and heartfelt moments, the message that stuck with me the most was the importance of teachers in students’ lives. Miss Barrett’s goal, as stated in the story of the Oxford Cleric in the Canterbury Tales, was “Gladly would he learn and gladly teach.” No matter how tough it got, Miss Barrett strove to meet this goal and inspire her students to learn. As a person who wants to pursue a form of education, I found this story deeply interesting and touching. I want to applaud the cast members and crew that brought this story to life and drove home its important message. Teachers are much needed in this world whether we think so or not, and Up the Down Staircase emphasized this valuable lesson, while also making it a spectacular story on stage.