When Chad Arle of Concord was just learning to walk, his passion for performing was already obvious. He would bounce up and down and “stomp around” while watching Barney on television, he says, moments that his mother immortalized on videotape. A dozen years later Chad, a ninth grader at the Fenn School, is dedicated to acting, performing both at Fenn and with various outside theatre groups.
Chad spoke about his love of acting during his Senior Reflection recently, urging his fellow students to pursue their interests “because even if you don’t continue them beyond Fenn, the experience of devoting yourself to something you love will serve you the rest of your life.”
Senior Reflections are a ninth grade tradition at Fenn, and part of the school’s efforts to give boys public speaking opportunities so that they can both develop poise and confidence and leadership skills by sharing thoughts about what is important to them with classmates, teachers, staff members, and guests who assemble in the Meeting Hall. Speakers select a significant person or experience, a journey, whether literal or figurative, or a lesson they have learned, and deliver for roughly three minutes during All School Meeting.
“We want the boys to speak from the heart,” says Upper School Head and Assistant Headmaster Derek Boonisar, “and to make a connection with the audience.” Lorraine Ward, a former Fenn English teacher, helps the boys prepare their reflections, which are presented on most Fridays throughout the year.
Chad says he would write skits and plays, including “our own version of Peter Pan, with an original score,” with his siblings (Tyler is a seventh grader and sister Alexis is at Nashoba Brooks) and cousins, and perform them at family gatherings. He loves going to Broadway plays, numbering Newsies and Wicked among his favorites, and later this month he will be playing Mr. Green in the Concord Youth Theatre’s production of Clue: The Musical. This past summer he performed in the musical Into the Woods at Middlesex School Summer Arts.
Though he confessed to being “nervous” before delivering his Reflection in front of some 350 people, Chad spoke with the kind of enthusiasm and confidence he demonstrated when he sang on the Fenn stage last winter in the Fenn-Nashoba Brooks Winter Musical, Damn Yankees. Chad also takes piano lessons, plays soccer, squash, and tennis, and sings with a Fenn a cappella group. A student here since the fourth grade, he says it is “a little scary” to be moving on from Fenn in the spring because “I feel as if I’ve grown up here.”
His experiences as a performer, Chad says, have taught him “the importance of commitment and teamwork, the need to have courage, and the ability to speak comfortably in public. All of this,” he adds, “has prepared me for the next step in my life.”