When Jill Jameson’s older daughter was in fourth grade she was part of a Girl Scout troop that went to Broadway to see the production of “Wicked.” As part of the experience, the girls got a behind-the-scenes close-up view at a pre-show workshop with cast members and crew.
The event became too expensive to repeat in future years, but Jameson, a parent volunteer, raised the idea that Pleasantville High School could organize a version of the same activity surrounding the production of its annual musical. Jameson approached Kathleen Donovan-Warren, the school’s theater and choral director who leads the popular musical, during last year’s preparation of “Beauty and the Beast.”
For the second consecutive year last Friday afternoon, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts from Pleasantville between grades 1-7 rotated among six 15-minute workshops that included students involved both on stage and in the crew for next month’s production of “Peter Pan.” Along with at least one adult leader in each group, the high school students explained their role and responsibility to help make the show come together in time for the first of five performances over two weekends starting on Friday, March 8.
About 110 children from six troops got to practice a couple of songs with lead cast members, then move over to the dancers, spend time with the lighting and sound crew, discuss costume making as well as the set building process and also see how props are made.
Jameson, whose younger daughter is in the crew, said the younger children and the high school students were excited to be part of the effort.
“It’s good for leadership and mentoring for the older kids and they get to show their passion and hopefully we’re breeding future theater children,” she said.
Donovan-Warren said she thought the workshops was a great idea last year and encouraged the students and the troops to repeat it this year. She said for those children who return with family to see the finished product, the trip is particularly meaningful.
“It’s just a great opportunity for those kids to learn about theater, to get excited about it and they seem to have a great time because they don’t see this background stuff when they come to see the show,” Donovan-Warren said.
Although the clock is ticking down on the number of rehearsals remaining–this week the school is off for the mid-winter recess– the students were happy to take time out of their schedules to work with the scouts. Billy Matchen, one of the sword fighters in the show, said he thought it was special to see the high level interest from the children in each group.
“They all leave seeing everything that goes on into making the sword fights from the props, the swords, the painting,” Matchen said. “It’ really is great to see how much they enjoy it and I hope they see the show.”
Seven-year-old Trey Persons said the time spent being shown the props interested him the most. During one part, adult leader Kat Nemec showed what they used for a cannonball, making it appear to be. It was a black ball made of foam.
Following the workshops, all six troops went to the auditorium, where they saw the cast rehearse two numbers that they practiced during the song and dance session–the Ugg-a-wugg song and “I Won’t Grow Up.”
Jameson said she doesn’t know if the behind-the-scenes program will be something that’ll be done every year but she is hopeful it’s a regular occurrence.
“This is a good way to introduce kids to every aspect of theater,” she said.
Show times are 7:30 p.m. on March 8, 15 and 16 with 2 p.m. matinees on March 9 and 10. For tickets and info, visit www.phsplay.org.