What’s the effect of a single good deed? Students at Magnolia Elementary School are about to find out once they watch a drama production featuring their peers that focuses on doing nice things for others.
A theater club was formed at Magnolia when the Parent Teacher Club was grappling last year with the fact that they couldn’t afford to bring back The Missoula Children’s Theater program again, said Magnolia PTC committee member Elizabeth Walden. In order to create a similar experience, they decided to begin producing the plays on their own and form a drama club. Walden now serves as the PTC’s drama coordinator and is the producer for the Magnolia drama club’s upcoming play “Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed” based on the children’s story by Emily Pearson.
Tickets for the production are $3 each. The two public performances are Friday, March 11 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 12 at 1 p.m. The money raised will help fund the fledgling Magnolia drama program. There will also be one school performance for the students.
The story is about a little girl whose simple, anonymous good deed had a ripple effect that changed the world. The book is one of Walden’s favorite children’s stories so she contacted the author about doing a play about it.
“She was very enthusiastic and encouraging,” Walden said of the conversation with Pearson.
Walden wrote the Magnolia play script using as much dialogue as possible from the book.
“I saw that a lot of the character traits we’re trying to encourage in our students are also in the play,” she said. “The kids are really responding to it.”
She noted that she’s seen a difference in the cast since rehearsals began in mid February. The students had to go through two sets of auditions in order to secure a role in the play. By the time they hit the stage, Walden reported that the students will have logged more than 36 hours of rehearsal time.
The play is driven by narration and consists of 15 mini-scenes. Each scene features four non-speaking roles and shows how one good deed is passed along and affects many people. More than 50 students are involved with the play. Walden said that there are 19 students with lines and 18 students who perform in 61 different non-speaking roles. Half the cast is in kindergarten through second grades. There is also a 15-person student crew that operates lights, sound, and the curtains.
The stage managers are also students, sixth grader Kylie Richards and fifth grader Emma Burke. They help Walden with directing as well.
Richards noted that she saw a play once and really liked it and she wanted to be involved. Last year, she was a stage manager for the first time.
“I learned it was really fun being (stage) manager because I don’t really like being on stage and talking in front of people,” she said. “That (stage manager) was one thing I was really good at.”
Richards added that she believes her prior stage manager experience will help her do a better job this year.
The play will also launch the Extraordinary Deeds Program at Magnolia where the cast will challenge the student body to do their own extraordinary deeds. The goal is to do 10,000 extraordinary deeds in five weeks, Walden said. The students will check off boxes listed on a piece of paper that goes home with them for which extraordinary deeds they’ve done. The school will have a chart on display in the main hallway that will show how the students progress toward their goal. The book author’s website also features support materials for launching such a program, which has been used at schools in other states.
Additionally, similar to MCT, the Magnolia drama club has held theater workshops for students. One major difference is that the workshops are offered throughout the year, every two to three months. Some of the workshops include character building, speaking with accents, and beat box, where students make music with sounds or noises they create themselves. The workshops are open to all grade levels of Magnolia students, as long as they have a permission slip. So far, approximately 200 students have participated in the two-hour workshops, which are held after school.
Walden said that enthusiasm, Internet research, and support from talented people in the community have been key in making the drama program work.