LONGMONT — Violet, a widowed mother of seven working her little farm, and Jacob, a migrant worker trying to unionize for better pay, argued about which one of them suffered more hardships and which needed more compassion.
Their audience? Skyline High School sophomores.
Violet and Jacob were played by actors Jessica Robblee and Tyee Tilghman from “Living History Matrix 2006,” a multi-day performance and workshop presented in high schools by professional teaching artists of the Denver Center Theatre Academy as part of the education department of The Denver Center for the Performing Arts.
The group visited Skyline High last week.
The actors visit with various classes — such as English, drama and social studies — to talk with the students about theme and issue analysis from the performances they did at the high school Monday.
The actors performed excerpts from “Biloxi Blues” by Neil Simon, “King Lear” by William Shakespeare, “Antigone” by Jean Anouilh and “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck.
Robblee, Tilghman and Josh Hartwell visited a sophomore English class Thursday to discuss Steinbeck’s play, using exercises on observation, discussion and debate.
“We do all of these things to hear from you,” Robblee told the class. “This is a forum for your voices.”
Students and the actors used their five senses to describe scenes, such as a riverbank and a barn, from “Of Mice and Men.”
“There are no right or wrong answers,” Hartwell said. “Steinbeck was a descriptive writer who put characters into the settings he saw in real life.”
They also watched a talk-show discussion between the actors, who played a migrant worker and a farm owner struggling during the Great Depression.
Teacher Jennifer Osborn said the workshop allows students to connect real-life situations — like being a soldier, having a relative with Alzheimer’s disease or dealing with homelessness — with the literature they read in class.
“It’s asking kids what they think instead of telling them what to think,” she said.
Melanie M. Sidwell can be reached at 303-684-5274, or by e-mail at