Lashaun Stephen, 8, spoke timidly into the microphone: “Hi, my name is —‘’’
But the “monster voice” that boomed back at him from the rear of the theater made him stop short.
The mic dropped Lashaun’s voice two octaves and was Broward Center of the Performing Arts’ audio department head Edmund Griffin’s way of teaching him and his classmates from Bethune Elementary School how altering sound waves with a theater audio system can affect pitch.
Lashaun was one of about 80 second-graders attending Bethune’s annual Math and Science Day, where students learn about the science of light, perspective, and weights and pulleys courtesy of theatrical magic.
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Bethune, a magnet school for the arts located in Hollywood, often brings students to the center for performances, said teacher Shirley Deus-Placide, but Math and Science Day shows them how the academics they learn in the classroom can be applied in the real world.
“They’re so excited about the chance to go behind the scenes, to see the different aspects of what goes on on the stage,” said Deus-Placide.
Broward Center spokeswoman Jan Goodheart said the event is a way of getting Bethune’s creative, artistic kids interested in math and science by showing them how they’re used in the arts.
“When they have the chance to take the stage and, in a playful manner, create shadows, there’s often an ‘aha’ moment about how light works,” Goodheart said.
Behind the stage of the Broward Center’s Amaturo Theater, the children watched the weights and pulleys they’d studied in math classes used to drop things onto the stage or whisk them up into the rafters.
Then they gathered around a stage light for a demonstration on color blending as lighting technicians showed them the transparent colored films called “gels” placed in front of stage lights to change their color, and mixed red and yellow gels to create orange light, and green and red ones to form purple.
A lighting technician slipped a cutout in front of the bulb and 7-year-old Rannisha Humphrey shrieked in delight as a dragon materialized in fiery red and black silhouette on the screen.
“Oh, that’s so cool,” she said, lowering her hand in front of the hot stage light to make a barking shadow dog as the lighting tech pulled away the dragon cutout.
Audio engineer Griffin said hearing the kids giggle after speaking into one of his altered microphones or “oooh” and “aaaah” at the colored stage lights makes the Broward Center’s staff look forward to their visit each year.
“I can’t help but laugh,” Griffin said. “And there’s always a couple in each group where I see that sparkle of, ‘Aha! I got it!’”