• Sam Mitchell, who plays fast-talking traveling salesman Harold Hill, foretells of trouble -- right here in River City
  • Rehearsing their roles, clockwise from front, are Lucia Rossi, Lucy Millwood, Amelia Albers and Claire Spagnuolo
  • Kyra Edwards, center, said she’s excited and nervous about performing. “I love it when we dance,” she said
  • Elghan Burns, right, helps cast member Lucky Millwood with her wardrobe
  • Anna Loos, left, “the pick-a-little lady,” gets a costume adjustment from townsperson and co-stage manager Estelle Metz

Gotta Know the Territory

Middle School’s First-ever Musical a Classic

by Morgan Jarema  

It's two weeks to showtime and the middle school cafeteria is abuzz -- nay, atwitter -- with activity.

Co-stage manager Maeve Coretti works to pass out cast T-shirts, before she perches on the edge of the stage to take notes on scene arrangement coming from co-director Marybeth Timmer.

What: EGR Middle School's "The Music Man Jr."

When: 7 p.m. on Dec. 7 and 8, 2 p.m. on Dec. 9

Where: Pioneer Auditorium, Wealthy Elementary, 1961 Lake Drive SE

Tickets: $5 for students, $7 for adults, can be purchased at the door and in the Middle School main office starting on Dec. 4

On stage, cast members -- aka townspeople -- practice hitting their chip-on-the-shoulder marks, while co-director Michelle Kastanek urges "Big voices!" from offstage.

The upcoming production is a big deal for the 50 or so cast and crew members of "Music Man Jr.," and a big deal for Kastanek, middle school administrative assistant to Principal Anthony Morey. She has been working for years to get a theater program going at the middle school.

Callum Mellish works the sound during a recent rehearsal of EGR Middle School’s first-ever musical. He won’t be doing the sound for the real thing, he explained: “I’ll either be doing prep table or moving props”"I couldn't believe there were no drama opportunities at the middle school," Kastanek said. "Drama is so important, not only in the confidence they get from getting up in front of their peers, but how their public speaking improves. Even their reading comprehension. Learning to empathize. It all ties in. It's so good for them."

Kastanek started a Shakespeare Club three years ago under Peter Stuursma, the previous principal. Last year was the middle school's first play, "Anne of Green Gables." Last year's theater program was funded through a grant from the East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation. This year, the PTO is sponsoring the production.

Seventh-grader Estelle Metz, who plays a townsperson, is co-stage manager along with eighth-grader Maeve Coretti.

"I've been doing theater for a while, mostly crew but acting as well," said Estelle. "It's hard. I'm running onstage and offstage all the time, but I really enjoy it."


SNN article: To Be Dramatic, Or Not to Be

Co-stage manager Maeve Coretti makes notes while co-director Marybeth Timmer rehearses with Sam Mitchell, who plays Harold Hill. “I like to be behind the curtain,” said Maeve, “but I dance along”

Co-director Michelle Kastanek gives posture pointers to cast members

Conductor Lucas Diepstra, left, and Graham Sterling hold the frame while Natalie Yates and Peter Heinz recreate the painting “American Gothic” and sing a solo in “Iowa Stubborn”

Submitted on: December 1st 2017

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