The Star-Herald

Mars Hill children embark on weeklong theater adventure

MARS HILL, Maine — A New Hampshire-based children’s theater company visited Fort Street Elementary School in Mars Hill during the week of May 7-11 to give students a unique opportunity to learn about and participate in a musical production. 

Eighty students in grades two, four and six spent a total of 16 hours rehearsing for “Cry Wolf” with two actor/educators from Children’s Stage Adventures — Morgan Swan of Woodland and Eric Monzel of North Ferrisburgh, Vermont — who also will perform with the children onstage. The cast will perform the musical twice on Friday, May 11, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. The first performance will be exclusively for students and staff members while the evening show will be open to the community.

“Cry Wolf” is a musical version of the fairytale, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” that takes place in Kleinstadt, a small town in the Bavarian Alps, as townspeople prepare for the annual Stinky Cheese Festival. Friedrich is a young shepherd assigned to protect the town’s sheep from wolves by crying, “Wolf,” if he sees the predators. But when Friedrich cries, “Wolf,” falsely due to peer pressure, nobody in town believes him when actual wolves invade.

“I play Friedrich, the boy who cries, ‘Wolf,’” said Caleb Howlett, 11, after a Wednesday morning rehearsal. “With acting you realize that you need to learn from your mistakes and play your part like you were actually that person.”

Through the Residency Week program, children learn skills important for succeeding in theater including memorization, creativity and collaboration, according to Monzel.

“Some of my favorite moments are those ‘light bulb moments’ when a child is onstage and you can see that everything’s starting to click for them. That’s when they realize they’re not just saying lines that we’ve told them to say. They really are that character onstage,” Monzel said.

Swan noted that the rehearsals require students to learn their lines and song lyrics and proper placement on stage all in a week’s time, which teaches them about both the creative and technical aspects of theater productions.

“Children’s Stage Adventures is the only touring company on the East Coast that teaches entire plays to students in only 16 hours,” Swan said. “I love watching them grow throughout the process and learn to take chances as performers.”

“Cry Wolf,” marks the seventh time that Children’s Stage Adventures has come to Fort Street Elementary School. During Wednesday’s morning rehearsal, the cast spent time practicing the play’s climatic chase scene that involves sheep, factory workers and other residents running the wolves out of town.

Sixth-grader Isabella Pryor plays Gretel, a member of the Schafer family, in “Cry Wolf” and said that she embraced the opportunity to perform onstage.

“When I was in fourth grade I decided that I want to be an actor when I grow up,” Pryor, 12, said. “The actors (from Children’s Stage Adventures) are really nice and help us improve as performers.”

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