Curtain call: Jefferson students put on first musical

Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa–To end the school year on a high note, Jefferson students participating in the Beyond the Classroom After School Program’s musical theatre group performed their first ever musical. May 24, their production of “Munchkin Mediation: Conflict Resolution in Oz” delighted both their classmates and their families.

For the first time this year, Jefferson Elementary School offered the Beyond the Classroom After School Program, where children could stay after school to participate in a variety of activities, such as playing basketball, learning how to sew, or trying out musical theatre. Students would rotate to a different activity every six weeks, except for the students in musical theatre, who practiced for their production for 11 weeks.

Music teacher Cole Flack directed “Munchkin Mediation: Conflict Resolution in Oz,” working with students in third through sixth grade to put the show together. Flack selected the musical with the help of fourth grade teacher Laura McDonald, who used plays from Bad Wolf Press, which published “Munchkin Mediation,” and knew that their musicals tied good lessons to amusing stories that kids enjoy acting out. Flack felt that the familiar characters and setting with a new twist on them would give students a great experience for their first time performing. “A lot of kids are familiar with the Wizard of Oz, and I thought it would help them relate to their first musical,” he explained.

Though the kids hand never performed in a musical before, they found it a great opportunity to explore their interests and try acting before going off to middle school. Joslyn Strouf, a third grader who played the Wicked Witch of the West shared, “I joined because I want to be an actor when I get older, and a singer, and I thing that could really help.”

“I decided I wanted to be in the musical because I had issues with my self-esteem and I want to be in show choir next year, and I wanted to see what it would be like on stage–it was fun!” added sixth grade student Dezahlee Cabrera, a sixth grader who played the Tin Woodsman.

In the weeks leading up to the show, students worked hard to learn their lines and memorize their songs. A pair of students worked with art teacher Wendy Waltert Stansbery to paint backdrops depicting the land of Oz. Students created their costumes using a combination of borrowed pieces and items brought from home to help them get into character.

May 24, students performed “Munchkin Mediation” twice, once during the school day for their classmates and once in the evening for their families. Across the board, students in the show enjoyed the experience, and would encourage others to try musical theatre for themselves.

Fourth grader Trace Wingerter shared he though other kids would enjoy participating in a musical, “because it can help raise your self-esteem and gets you excited and helps you know how to do shows yourself.”

Pahola Castro-Rivera, a sixth grader who played a munchkin, also found it a great way to grow personally. “I got over my stage fright and realized it was really fun to be on stage,” she said.

So long as the Beyond the Classroom Afterschool Program continues, Flack plans to keep putting on a spring musical. “I’m, so proud of these kids and how they come out of their shells and perform for their peers, almost 400 kids,” he glowed.

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