Middle school musicals groom stars of tomorrow


Pablo Scapinachis Armstrong_www.

It’s an incomparable feeling: onstage with eyes glued to your every move, the incandescent lights radiating off your skin, your fellow actresses and actors by your side. Being part of a production satisfies a craving.

However, doing so starts long before high school: the majority of current Players were involved in their middle school productions and had to make the daunting transition out of Bedford and Coleytown Productions to Staples Players.

“In 8th grade, we were on top of the totem pole, and in 9th grade we find ourselves at the very bottom,” Will Haskell ’14, current president of Staples Players, said.

However, restarting at the bottom of the food chain does not drive most actors and actresses away. Julia Mandelbaum ’16 tapped her feet and sang her heart out as Millie in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” in Bedford two years ago but received the role of a dancer in the Staples production. She was not disappointed with her part in the Players cast. “I got to experience the ensemble part of a production, which is important to learn if you want to do theatre in the future,” she said.

Middle school shows are as far as some actors, actresses, dancers and singers make it. Although Jessica Fields ’14 was often the lead in Bedford productions,  she didn’t get a role freshman year at Staples.

“I knew I never wanted to pursue theatre,” she said. “The Bedford shows were really fun for me, and it was just a place to pursue my hobby.” For Fields, and many others, singing and acting was not as much a need but an enjoyable way to spend free time.

Whether as a pastime or a passion, both Bedford and Coleytown twirl under the lights and sing all octaves, not only to be exposed to the rigor of being in a production combined, but also to feel the sense of family that comes with being part of a cast.

For the upcoming Coleytown show, Shrek The Musical, students will practice for four months, five days a week, from 2:30 – 5 p.m. every day, and as late as 7 p.m. the week before the show, Ben Frimmer, Theatre Arts Curriculum Leader at Coleytown Middle School, said. Frimmer explained that this stringency prepares students for what is to come should they pursue theater at the high school level. And he’s right – in high school, rehearsal times are nearly the exact same.

But long hours are not the primary goal of the middle school productions. The focus of middle school theater, Frimmer said, is “to have each participant feel good about their role in the production, whether on stage or off, and to build a sense of community.”

This same sense of community is carried through until high school graduation. “Staples Players is a supportive group of people that dedicate incredible amounts of time toward putting on the best production we possibly can,” Haskell said. “Just like in middle school, I love being a part of that communal effort.”