Seventh graders at John Hanson Middle School learned (almost) firsthand how the life of an intensely shy woman unfolded, leading to her being called the “bravest woman in America.”
Mary Ann Jung, an actress and historical interpreter, performed two shows as Clara Barton — schoolteacher, Civil War battlefield nurse, founder of the American Red Cross — for language arts students who are studying biographies.
The shows were interactive with volunteering students portraying Union and Confederate soldiers, a battlefield nurse and Dr. James Dunn, a surgeon at the Battle of Antietam who worked with Barton. The rest of the audience was divvied up into three sections — the naysayers who would respond to every query with “Absolutely not!”; the faction that was against women’s right by shouting “That’s no place for a woman!”; and the Believers who countered with “Never give up!”
“It’s an excellent opportunity for students to be part of an interactive experience,” said language arts teacher Ryan Dematteo. Jung’s performance allowed audience members to hear about the life of a historical figure by the person themselves — or as close as one can get.
“It’s inspirational for me to hear,” said student Yachi Madaan. “I was surprised that she not only went to the war, but was saving people in the war.”
Leyah Epie said Barton’s legacy remains.
“She started the Red Cross and we still use it today,” Leyah said.
The Barton show is the third Jung scripted. She has portrayed Good Queen Bess — it was the first show she wrote — at the Maryland Renaissance Fair for more than 30 years. Her second show, featuring Margaret Brent, was penned in response to Maryland groups wanting a performance centered around a state figure. Barton, who Dunn dubbed “Angel of the Battlefield,” was the third show Jung wrote. She spent a year researching Barton’s life and writing the script.
“I love all my characters,” said Jung, who also produces shows as Amelia Earhart, Julia Child, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sally Ride. “They’re all fun and feisty. To me, Clara is not just a U.S. heroine, but one of the world’s greatest heroines.”
Bringing performance into schools help students relate to the lessons they are learning in class.
“Bring it alive, make it personal and emotional,” Jung said. “That’s the beauty of drama. Everyone can relate to the emotions.”
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.