For this year’s play at the Katharine Cornell Theater, the Charter School presents the story of a young boy who takes refuge from bullies and embarks on a magical journey.
Heather Capece, the drama teacher and costume maker at the Charter School, said that work began on the play in September, and all participants, from grades one to 10, joined for rehearsals in January, working after school and weekends in the hallways of the Charter School. Teacher Brit Quell and parent Tina Floyd are the production team. Dances were choreographed by Jessie Keller Jason from the Yard. Jonah Maidoff and Casey Hayward conducted casting tryouts. All 33 students who tried out were cast in the play, based on the novel “The Neverending Story,” by Michael Ende.
A lonely child, Bastian (Luciano Baldwin) hides in his school attic and begins to read a curious book when all of a magical sudden, an adventure of epic proportions begins in Fantasica; a land of stories that is being destroyed by the Nothing.
In Fantasica the quest to save the Childlike Empress (Madison Pitman) begins. She sends a hero, the hunter Atreyu (Matti Floyd), on the quest, where they meet many captivating characters along the way, such as centaurs, dwarfs, trolls, the Luck Dragon, a horse, buffaloes, a werewolf, and gnomes.
This is a story of bravery, adventure, kindness, love, and loss that rolls out at a dramatic and fast pace, with many dance numbers to keep the audience entertained and enthralled.
On Sunday at dress rehearsal, the kids were still getting lights, costumes, and acting kinks straightened out, and were eager to take a break and tell me about the play and the work it takes to get to opening night.
Behind the scenes
First-time actor Stela Duncheva, age 7, who plays a knight, a spider, and a buffalo, said, “I like the play and acting, and I love the stage and costumes. I learned when to go to wardrobe and props for help.”
Ella Oskan, 13, plays the horse, Artex, and this will be her fifth play: “It’s magical to be a part of another family. In the theater I get to know my peers in another light. We bond over the experience and rehearsals. Every year I learn how to pull emotions from my character. This year I learned how my horse developed his friendships through his spunky, old-soul loyalty.”
Koko Capece, 10, is also in her fifth play. She is a gnome named Professor Engywook. Koko has a passion for acting and theater life, and says, “I like to build backstory on my characters, to create a life for the gnome before he arrives onstage. With my gnome, I imagined that his son left and never came back, ever. This helped me feel sad about his circumstances. I felt more empathy for my gnome.”
Koko also designed and helped build the sets on the main stage.
Ada Chronister, 11, who is a dancer, added, “I love bringing part of the play to life by dancing, by being human, alive, and evil. We dancers are the force of darkness. It is cool that we can dance our expressions, and the music is cool. The hallway was not cool to practice in, but once we got onstage, the work transformed into life and storytelling.”
Nikita Kleeman, 9, is a dancer who loves bringing the drama of the play into motion using costume and music, and said, “With music it is a feeling, an emotion. We want to portray the world without imagination. It is scary.”
Lucia Capece, 12, is a sound technician who found that teamwork helped with the difficult job of sound and timing: “Sound sets the mood. Thunder and lightning heighten fear and anticipation. I help keep the actors on cue and help draw out their expression.”
“Without sound and lights, there would only be silence and darkness. Lighting is also highlighting, like a highlighter,” said lighting technician Grace Robinson, 11. This is Grace Robinson’s second year as lighting technician.
On reflection, drama teacher Ms. Capece said, “What we see is a magical story; what we don’t see is the magic of children interacting and working as a team. As older kids work with younger students, they teach them the ropes through mentorship, which is our school’s curriculum and mission. The hands-on experience of project-based learning is the essence of Charter learning. The arts and drama give kids a chance to shine and build confidence in a way that the cla ssroom cannot. It is esteem-building, and it works.” said Ms. Capece.
When it comes to fantasy and life, the Charter kids deliver a wonderful adventure for all ages, and they encourage you to come early, bring tissues, and be prepared to laugh and cry.
“The Neverending Story” will be performed at the Katharine Cornell Theater, Saturday, March 17, at 2 and 6 pm, and Sunday, March 18, at 2 pm. Tickets at the door: $10, $35 for a family of four.
Advance purchase of tickets at the Charter School: $8, $30 for a family of four. Call 508-693-9900.