May 10, 2023 -- World Language Middle School students practiced their lines and songs on stage, excited for the curtain to rise for the opening day of the school’s first musical.
Getting to rehearsal was a milestone in itself, with all the planning and practicing, along with immense community support, to make Shrek The Musical Jr. a reality.
“We were starting this from the very bottom, the very beginning,” said Ryan Swartz, instrumental director at World Language Middle School and Ecole Kenwood Elementary School. “The kids, the staff, and the community helped put this together. It was great because theater should be a community effort. That’s what we wanted to do is to make this a community.”
Gianna Pandolfi De Rinaldis, a drama teacher at World Language, said the process started last June and came together in December with them getting the rights to perform the show.
“I thought too that at World Language, some of the kids have never experienced theater before,” Pandolfi De Rinaldis said. “Some of the kids are very shy, and there are a lot of characters involved - some roles where they don’t even have to show their faces. I thought it was a good idea so that everyone could be involved.”
Students have also been involved in every step of the process, including painting and designing the set and helping with the props and costumes.
“This is a great hands-on part of the program, too,” Swartz said. “Theater is not just about the actors. It’s about the stage people, set designers, the lights – everyone is equally important to the show. They also get a sense that this is their show.”
Swartz and Pandolfi De Rinaldis didn’t expect all the help they would get. Businesses, families, surrounding communities and school districts, and staff within the District came together to support the program. Pandolfi De Rinaldis said she was especially thankful to some of the other theater teachers in the District to help them identify what they needed, even operating some of the equipment.
“The community support has been huge,” Pandolfi De Rinaldis said. The overwhelming amount of support we’ve seen in the community and this District has been amazing.”
“The great thing about this district is that it isn’t about ego,” Swartz said. “They just want to help. That doesn’t happen all the time. It’s nice to know that there are people you can call and ask and get a message back saying they are willing to help.”
Shrek The Musical Jr. is open to the public Thursday, May 11, and Friday, May 12, with showtimes at 6:30 p.m. People can buy tickets by visiting Local Level Events.
“People should come out,” Pandolfi De Rinaldis said. “They will enjoy it. The kids have been excited that we are doing this show from day 1. Come out and support them!”