Middle school can be tough. It’s an awkward, in-between, time when the world seems topsy-turvy and things don’t always work out as you hope.
But for many adolescents, there’s a thrilling anticipation for what the future may hold, how to get there, and who they will become along the way.
This is not unlike the characters’ journey in 'Into the Woods,' the musical by Sondheim and Lapine. Appropriately enough, the musical theater students at Swift Creek Middle School are in rehearsals for that show.
Several well-known fairy tales are interwoven through the plot but in lieu of a concise, happily ever after conclusion, the show illuminates the more ambiguous reality of life. Among other things, the musical teaches that our actions have consequences and that by working together, we can overcome challenges.
It’s this feeling of collaboration that drew eighth-grader Joelie Campana to the musical theater class. “You’re in there with your friends and they’re all supportive,” she said. “We’re learning how to work together, doing lines, and singing together.”
Joelie has several performance credits but finds this production to be especially meaningful. “My parents did 'Into the Woods' like 20 years ago.”
Coincidentally, Joelie is playing the baker’s wife, the role held by her mother in that earlier production.
Eighth-grader Riordan Pollock also has community theater experience and agrees that teamwork and perseverance are essential. “When we’re working together, we create something really cool with every single dance move and every note we’re trying to hit. It may be frustrating at times but that doesn’t mean that we should stop trying.”
Riordan believes this process encourages personal exploration and growth. “It is helping everyone develop their own character, in a way. They’re learning more about themselves. You have to study what motivates your character and when you do that, you can discover a new passion in yourself.”
As a seventh-grader, this was Tedeya Buckles’ first opportunity to take the musical theater class and she has made some surprising self-discoveries. “I learned that I’m actually a better singer than I thought.” When describing her first solo performance, she said, “it was pretty hard to hit all the right notes and get on the right timing, but I actually did it. It makes me say, ‘OK, I know I can do this, what more can I do?’ I keep going because I find something new about myself every time.”
Musical theater is a relatively new and popular course offering at Swift Creek. Co-taught by Jenilee Hallam and Kathryn Long, the class has doubled in size since last year. Hallam also leads three girls choruses and a boys chorus and she’s enjoying the opportunity to combine her skills with Long’s for the benefit of the students.
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