Shoutles presents ‘Beauty and the Beast’ | SLIDESHOW

MARYSVILLE — Four years after Shoultes Elementary started presenting school plays with “Beauty and the Beast,” the school’s drama program came full circle on March 22 and 23.

Nancy Hammer, the teacher and librarian who started the school plays at Shoultes and has served as their director for all four years, explained that her long-term plan was to assemble scripts, costumes, props and backgrounds for three plays — “Beauty and the Beast” which debuted in 2009, “Peter Pan” which students performed in 2010, and “The Wizard of Oz” which the school staged in 2011 — which could be presented in an ongoing three-year cycle. Because students are only eligible to try out for the plays after they’ve entered third grade, and all the school’s students graduate after fifth grade, even a student who performed in each of those years’ plays would never perform the same play twice.

Shoultes fifth-graders Kaya Lowe, Matthew Miller and Kelsey Campbell all remembered the first time they saw “Beauty and the Beast” on the school’s stage, and all three will leave the school as veteran actors. Lowe, one of the four actresses to play Beauty, and Miller, one of the four actors to play the Beast, performed in “The Wizard of Oz,” last year while Campbell, who played Tink the teacup, had also performed in “Peter Pan” the year before. Lowe laughingly “blamed” Campbell for recruiting her into Shoultes’ drama program.

“She had so much fun that I wanted to give it a try,” Lowe said.

“When I watched that first play, I thought it would be fun to act,” Campbell said.

Lowe and Campbell agreed that showing off on stage and making friends among their cast-mates have appealed enough to bring them back for more than one year, while Miller explained that acting affords him the opportunity to express himself in ways that he couldn’t in class, especially not as loudly.

“It’s fun when you can find things about a character that you can relate to,” Miller said.

“When you’re acting, you get to have an attitude, and be mean or cute,” Campbell said.

All three thespians deemed memorizing lines the hardest part of their jobs, which is why Lowe derives such satisfaction from delivering those lines correctly, while Miller added that the final scene in “Beauty and the Beast” posed another problem for him.

“The dancing was really awkward,” Miller said. “You think the other kids are going to laugh when they see you.”

“We’re not that old to be doing this,” Lowe said.

Lowe advised other students who might be interested in performing in Shoultes plays to give it a go and be themselves, while Lowe reassured them that their acting talent matters less than their willingness to go with the flow of putting on such a play. In case they don’t get cast in an acting role, Miller encouraged those students to try out for the Shoultes School Choir, which provides musical accompaniment for  the plays.

Hammer credited a number of former Shoultes students with pitching in to mentor their successors.

“Peyton Draper, the original Bruno from our first ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ cam back to help the team practice,” Hammer said. “His sister Sydney was my right-hand go-to girl. I don’t know what I would have done without her.”

While she credited parents and community members with making the plays possible through their contributions, and thanked the high school’s TV-3 program for filming the play, Hammer herself has invested countless hours off the clock into the productions, including using fur hats to transform Batman masks and knight helmets into headpieces for the wolves and the Beast. With state budget cuts threatening the possibility of turning specialist positions such as hers into roving roles between different schools, Hammer expressed the concern that this year’s play might be Shoultes’ last.

“We’re all wondering what we’ll be doing next year,” Hammer said. “It’s not that I won’t have a job; I just won’t be here. I’m crossing my fingers, because I want to stay put. These plays have fostered immense team-building and become part of the Shoultes culture. Kids talk about it in the halls and get so excited as we gear up for it. We had parts for 38 kids this year, but we had 60 kids try out, out of a school of barely 400 students. I would be sad if this were to end. It wasn’t my dream to walk away from it.”


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