Youths stage Lenten drama - Catholic Courier

Youths stage Lenten drama

CANANDAIGUA — Parishioners who stuck around after the 9 a.m. Mass March 4 at St. Mary Church received a special treat, thanks to the young theater buffs in St. Mary School’s St. Genesian Players.

About a dozen of these young actors and actresses staged a short performance recounting Jesus’ last few hours on Earth before his resurrection. The performance, which they called “A Lenten Reflection,” was held in the school gymnasium, and about 40 parents, siblings and parishioners made their way to the gym after Mass to watch the show.

Before the production began the young thespians lined up on stage, introduced themselves and told the audience which Biblical characters they’d be playing. Then they faced a small memorial to St. Genesius and prayed that the patron saint of actors would guide their performance and help them reflect the honor and glory of God. St. Genesius is the patron saint of actors because he allegedly converted to Christianity in the middle of a performance during which he was supposed to make fun of the sacrament of baptism.

The production opened with Judas approaching two chief priests to ask what they might give him in exchange for handing Jesus over to them. After the chief priests agreed to give Judas 30 pieces of silver, the scene ended and the cast sang the first verse of “Were You There?” to the musical accompaniment of fifth-grade violinist Alex Gilges.

In the next scenes, eighth-grader Max Negley depicted Jesus as he talked to Peter after the Last Supper, prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, was betrayed by Judas and was brought before Pontius Pilate. Negley and his fellow St. Genesian Players acted out Jesus’ scourging, journey to Golgotha and death on the cross, pausing between each scene to sing another verse of “Were You There?”

In the last scene, two adult volunteers carried Max, who was wrapped in a sheet, and laid him in the tomb, which was surrounded by mourners. The curtain closed, and when it re-opened, all of the St. Genesian Players stood onstage, smiling triumphantly as they received a rousing round of applause.

The players later told the Catholic Courier they’d enjoyed performing in the Lenten production, which they’d been working on for several weeks. The St. Genesian Players meet for practice every Tuesday after school from 3 to 5 p.m., said sixth-grader Caroline Condon, who played one of the chief priests.

“I love drama. I want to act,” Caroline said when asked why she was willing to give up so much of her free time to join the drama club.

“I just like the acting,” agreed second-grader Megan Korpiel, who also played a chief priest.

Several students said they enjoyed acting out the familiar Biblical story because it’s one they’ve known for years and it’s part of their history as Catholics.

“I knew pretty much everything about this. I just like learning about this,” said fourth-grader Mara Sindoni.

Fellow fourth-grader Kiana Simons said the period costumes were her favorite part of the production. Fifth-grader Ben Korpiel said he enjoyed playing Pontius Pilate, even though the role required him to try a few new things.

“They put a lot of makeup on me,” Ben said.

Although the experience took him well past his normal comfort zone, Ben hardly seemed to mind.

“My favorite part of getting all ready was the makeup,” he said.

Ginny Crowley, director of the St. Genesian Players, said she was proud of all her young actors and actresses. Crowley, who the students refer to as “Aunt Ginny,” taught theater classes for the City University of New York’s Kingsborough Community College for 39 years before moving to the Canandaigua area.

“I’ve been up here three years and loving every minute of it,” Crowley told the Catholic Courier.

Her nephew, Tim McKenna, is a St. Mary alumnus and still is very much involved with the school community. After she moved upstate, Crowley approached St. Mary principal Ann Marie Deutsch with an idea.

“When I came up from New York, I came to her and I said, ‘I think I’d like to do theater for the children and with the children if I can find a place for it,'” she recalled.

Deutsch readily agreed, and the St. Genesian Players was born.

“I’m a very big supporter of the fine arts. It was what I had been looking for since I got here,” Deutsch said. “It’s just another perk that we can offer to our families.”

The drama club puts on several productions each year, Crowley said. In November they performed a piece about the pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, and later this year they’ll be performing “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

The students not only seem to love acting and honing their craft, but they’re also learning the importance of discipline, responsibility and teamwork, Crowley added. In each theater production, each member of the cast and crew has an equally important task to perform, whether they’re onstage or working behind the scenes.

“You better work with the whole ensemble, or it’s not going to work,” she noted. “Theater is the greatest discipline of all activities, including sports.”

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