Teachers and students showcase their stories, poems, films, art
Beau McKnight, Lyla Zicarelli, Margot Cathey
The smell of fresh ink and paper is not the first thing that comes to mind when one hears the word Coffee House. Yet, the aroma of the newly printed pages of this year’s Itinerary permeated the air of the Frank building on a recent Sunday afternoon.
This year’s Coffee House took place on April 30 at 6 p.m. in the Bray Theater. The idea of the annual event is to recreate the scene and match the aesthetic of an actual coffee shop or café. Copies of this year’s Itinerary, which is ESD’s award winning and nationally recognized literary art magazine, were set out on tables outside of the theater for attendees to take.
Heather Cernoch, English teacher and Itinerary advisor, along with each year’s Itinerary communication editors, organize the event, which she has been doing for the past seven years.
“The first purpose is to celebrate [the debut of the new magazine,] because the magazine is kept under wraps until Coffee House,” Cernoch said. “The second reason why we have it is to celebrate the creativity and artistic talent at ESD.”
However, Coffee House has not always been such a well attended, community event. Greg Randall, a recently retired English teacher, attended the first Coffee House which took place by the quarry in 1982. He made an impact on both the event and many of the student contributors.
For the first Coffee Houses, the Itinerary staff brought coffee mugs and cups from home, giving a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
“The whole upper school, much smaller at that time, gathered outside on the grass where the West Wing is now to receive their magazines,” Randall said. “Students volunteered to stand and read their work.”
Although Itinerary is now advised by Cernoch, the event is completely student produced.
“I just make sure they don’t set the building on fire,” Cernoch said.
She essentially gives the students the creative freedom to do whatever they envisioned.
As co-heads of communications, senior Elisabeth Siegel and junior Kathryn Bakewell planned the event which displayed the paintings, drawings and photographs featured in this year’s Itinerary. The girls also made sure that the setting for the event and catering were in place. The event started in the atrium outside the Bray where coffee and pastries were served. At around 6 p.m. the crowd made their way into the theater and took their seats.
“The most rewarding part of planning a coffee house is actually seeing everybody at the event,” Bakewell said. “A lot of the stuff we do is preliminary work and we don’t get to see it till the day of. So once everything comes together and people show up it is really exciting.”
Senior Liam Pham and junior Charles Liu co-hosted the event and were in charge of introducing the students and faculty as they presented. They were humorous and kept the audience entertained. Each poem had a corresponding piece of art that was projected onto the screen and added a visual aspect to the writing that was being read.
“Hosting is a lot more spontaneous and happens on the day of the event,” Pham said. “Our job is really just to tie things together but also break up a lot of the serious atmosphere that often comes from the works being read.”
Coffee House is the culmination of months of work where every year Itinerary is unveiled. The magazine’s goal, as stated in the statement of purpose was to, “Remind readers that creating literature and art can be a tangible and physical experience that allows us to rise above our intellectual boundaries.”
Itinerary primarily meets as a club and has about 10 to 15 students depending on the year. For the past two years, Itinerary has also been offered as a class called Magazine. The staff receives over 100 submissions from students in grades nine through 12 as well as from faculty. As a team, the Itinerary members’ job is to sort through and select the best pieces and organize them into a common theme. Last year’s magazine won the Columbia Scholastic Press Association prestigious Gold Crown Award.
This year, English teacher Erin Keller contributed a poem called “Barefoot.” The poem was written as an interpretation of love and loss, but could also mean whatever the audience wants to depict it as and apply to their own experiences. Keller tries to fit as much feeling into as little words as possible in her writing.
“It was a privilege to be asked to read one of my little pieces and stand with the brave students who are courageous enough to share their gifts.” Keller said.
Student-produced films were also a large part of the event. The audience viewed a series of genres that ranged from love stories to amusing comedies. Freshman Elle Williams and seniors Reid Ackerman and Edie Dahlander presented their original short-films. Each film featured student actors and actresses.
Dahlander created the short film “Norman” as a dedication to her graduating class of 2023. The film was produced, written and acted by the senior class.
Dahlander contributed multiple writings and films. This was her second year submitting work and she showcased an original song she wrote her sophomore year called “Golden Hour.” Although this piece was written three years ago, Dahlander has been working on more songs since then, but has not shared them.
The meaning behind the lyrics was to capture the “feeling [of] time slip through my fingers and not wanting moments to end,” Dahlander said.
Ackerman’s short film was a romance, and to him, the most special of all his works. He spent more than 100 hours on this film, and his work resulted in his acceptance to New York University, where he plans to continue to pursue his love for film production.
“My short film was the most special to me because I had been working on it for so long,” Ackerman said. “And the story is something I strongly connect with on a personal level.”
Senior Sophia Ukeni was this year’s Itinerary editor-in-chief. She read her poem, “Room to Grow.”
“Writing, especially poetry, is a way for me to expand on my experiences in a creative way, and to inspire others to do the same.” Ukeni said.
Once all of the student contributors finished presenting their works, Cernoch honored junior Logan Betts who died at the end of April and had submitted photography pieces to Itinerary. His pieces this year included “Natural Connections,” “Window Into Isolation II” and “Addicted for a Reason.” All his photos were focused on nature.
At the end of the event, Cernoch also honored all of the seniors who dedicated a lot of time to the magazine during their senior year.
“Itinerary attracts the most creative, hard-working, responsible, motivated students on this campus,and the seniors are always leading by example, so when they leave we feel the loss, but we have some amazing students coming up to step into their shoes,” Cernoch said.