By Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester Middle School thespians are sharing their love of performance with their peers, parents and the community for the sixth straight year.
The musical theatre program began in 2008 with teacher Cyndi Murphy’s desire to expose students to a world beyond dress clothes and concert risers with an 8th grade performance of “Schoolhouse Rock.”
Sights were set higher the following year with a full-scale production of “Seussical: The Musical.” The tradition continues this year with a three-day, four performance run of “The Little Mermaid” on May 16-18.
“I feel it’s become a tradition at the school,” said Murphy. “We’ve got to be able to teach this (musical performance) in class and still tie it into the (educational) standards. The kids are discovering an interest they might not have considered and for the middle school, it’s a great outreach for the community. If you want a program for kids to excel, you have to be willing to sacrifice your time.”
Murphy, and her long-time production assistant Karen Cook, volunteer their time running rehearsals; promoting the musical and collecting ticket sales; shopping for material, props and sets; sewing and transforming words and song into a full-scale musical on the school’s stage.
Cook first became involved when Murphy was in rehearsal for “Schoolhouse Rock” and needed a last-minute bear costume.
“I made the costume and then helped with the following productions as much as I could since I still worked full time,” said Cook. “Then I retired and started as a full time volunteer assistant for Mrs. Murphy. Our productions have always been self-funded through fundraising and donations. We use the money from a meat, cheese and cookie dough sale and show tickets to buy the things we need. And we reuse and recycle costumes and props. Every year we’re able to do it a little bigger and better.”
For “The Little Mermaid,” an apron will be constructed at the front of the stage to extend performance space and later added to the inventory to be used in future musicals. Cook estimates there are hundreds of costumes and props hanging on racks and stored in boxes from the current and previous productions.
“Every year costuming becomes a little more of a challenge, both in storage and sewing,” said Cook. “I can’t just go to the store and pull a pattern. It has to be adapted to the character, but I have a lot of fun. It’s a joy working with Cyndi. It’s exciting and our creativity seems to complement each other. She has endless energy and she loves these kids. We’re presenting them with an opportunity to do something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
Eighth-grader Noah Robinette portrays King Triton. This is his first middle school production, but he is confident it will not be his last foray into drama and musical theatre.
“I love acting and have a strong passion to please the crowd and see smiles on their faces,” said Robinette. “It’s priceless and I would like to be involved in another play.”
Eighth-grader Kassidy Pastor is starring as Ariel in her third middle school play. She previously portrayed the White Rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland” and Duffy in “Annie.” Pastor said she enjoys singing and acting and wants to put her talents to good use.
“There’s a lot of pressure to be Ariel, but it helps push me to be a better actor,” said Pastor. “I’m trying to get into a performing arts class in high school and would like to be in the spring plays, but I’ll have to work around my sports schedule.”
Show times for “The Little Mermaid” and art show are May 16 at 7 p.m., May 17 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. and on May 18 at 3 p.m. at the middle school, 7155 Parkview Drive. Doors open one hour prior to the performance for those who only want to view the art show, which is free-of-charge.
Reserved seating for adults is $9, $7 for seniors 65 and older and $6 for students. Children age two and under are free as long as they sit on an adult’s lap. For ticket orders, call 828-4939.