GREECE — If the TV show “American Idol” was run like a play at St. Lawrence School, all the contestants would share in the glory, and none would have to suffer the humiliation of being eliminated from the competition.
More than 180 students enrolled in St. Lawrence’s fourth, fifth and sixth grades participated as singers, dancers, actors and set makers for “Come, Holy Spirit (Oh Spirit, Where Art Thou?),” according to the play’s author, Joseph Holleran, school principal. In particular, he noted that students who might not have otherwise considered the performing arts will now have had a taste of the theater.
“It gives all the kids an opportunity to get on the stage, to learn what a production entails,” Holleran said of his inclusive approach to the staging of the play. “Maybe in junior or senior high, they’ll take a risk and be involved, get on a stage crew or audition,” he said of the students. He added that St. Lawrence has for many years been putting on plays and pageants that involve all or a substantial portion of the student body.
“Come, Holy Spirit” was slated to be performed May 12 in the school gymnasium. The play is set in the upper room where the men and women of Jesus congregated before Pentecost. Throughout the play’s three acts, students take turns singing in a chorus and either dancing or acting. The students also helped create the stage’s sets in art classes, according to St. Lawrence staff.
Eloise Martin, a fifth-grade teacher at the school, said preparing for the play has had a positive effect on the students.
“I think it teaches them patience,” she said. “I think it teaches them to work as a team.”
Lyn Lathrop, a sixth-grade teacher, expressed similar sentiments.
“They learn if they make a mistake, to roll with it,” she said.
And, indeed, as they rehearsed the play a week before its opening performance, the students stumbled through lines, spoke too softly on stage and forgot where they were supposed to stand from time to time. One teacher joked that it was a “stress rehearsal, not a dress rehearsal.” However, another teacher noted that no matter what, she believed in the end students would come together as a group to put on a stellar performance.
The students certainly seemed eager to perform. Almost every one of them interviewed used the word “fun” to describe what they were doing. Abby Kindler, a sixth-grader who was both dancing and singing in the play, said she liked how dancing “gets your heart pumping” and is a “fun way to move.”
“I just think it’s a great way for kids to get theater experience before they go into high school,” Abby said.
Erin Trabold, another sixth-grader who was dancing and singing in the play, said she enjoyed “the feeling of being up there and being watched by everybody.” She added that the play’s scriptural basis had increased her interest in the Pentecost story.
Fourth-grader Brooklyn Bianchi was to play the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the first act, and said her part was fun and that she had a lot of lines.
“It kind of shows me what it was like to be waiting, like Jesus told (his followers) to do, and it kind of feels hard,” Brooklyn said of her role.
Brandon Hank and Zack Foggetti, both in sixth grade, said they enjoyed painting the stage set. Zack, who likes soccer, basketball and football, added that he preferred working on the set to singing on risers.
“It’s hard to stay on the bleachers,” he said.
Frankie White, a fifth-grader, noted that he liked playing Peter in the first act, although “it kind of takes awhile to memorize the lines.” He added that through the play, he learned that Peter had a bit of a temper and was the leader of the Apostles.
Natalie Wall, a sixth-grader, said she worked on painting the sets, and enjoys painting in general.
“You get to express what you feel like, painting and stuff,” Natalie said. “I started when I was little. My mom would get out the finger paints.”
Natalie also was to play Mary in the second act, a role she said she enjoyed.
“It’s just fun being somebody important,” Natalie said. She added that she had gained insight into what it was like to be the mother of the crucified and risen Jesus.
“She probably wanted to see her son again,” Natalie said of Mary.
Connecting children with their faith fulfills the purpose of staging “Come, Holy Spirit,” according to Holleran. He wrote the play with the intention of getting the children to think more about the Gospel they study at St. Lawrence.
“We always want to do a play or an activity like this with a deep spiritual focus to it,” he said.