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“Impossible Task” is anything but for Tuckahoe Students

Students at Tuckahoe Elementary are nearing the end of their intensive ten-week Main Stage Residency with ETC, which culminates in two performances. Over 50 Tuckahoe students, grades 2-5, have worked with ETC teachers to create a new musical. The students’ original story, directed by Kathleen Burnard, is a silly reimagining of a classic Russian folk tale.

For the past two months, students have met with ETC teachers at least twice a week after school to create the musical from scratch. In addition to the story, students were tasked with creating original music and lyrics with the help of music director Jonathan Kirby. They even design their own costumes and set with the help of production manager Samantha Foti. The students are currently practicing their newly learned dance moves, choreographed by Francesca Chilcote.

On rehearsal days, you can feel the excitement buzzing through the air as the group enjoys a quick snack before warm-ups begin. Once everyone has arrived, director Kathleen Burnard gives an overview of what we’re working on in rehearsal that day. Students then rotate in groups divided by grade, through rehearsals in Music, Acting, Production, and Choreography.

I worked on my first Main Stage Residency, “Tail Spin Tales” at McKinley last month, and got to experience first-hand the explosion of creativity and gusto with which elementary students approach creating their own show. Director Kathleen Burnard experienced the same zeal and astounding creative agility as she helped students create their own spin on a classic Russian folk tale. Students wrote the play together, coming up with quirky details about their characters and contributing lines to the scene. In our original take on the story, a talented archer must brave a series of tasks bestowed upon her by a jealous king. With a surprising group of friends to help her along the way, Ivan must teach herself to make the impossible possible.

Tuckahoe students have been working with vigor to write lines for the script, lyrics for the music, design costumes and set, and learn choreography. Finally, it’s the week of the show. Cast members practically shiver with glee when the words, “costumes,” or “makeup” are mentioned. Referred to as “tech week” in the theatre world, this is the time when the production elements are added to the play. How do we manage to fit in adding costumes, props, and more, all while rehearsing recently-learned choreography, and accommodating blocking to fit the stage? Tuckahoe students and ETC teaching artists meet every day this week to prepare for the performances on Thursday and Friday.

Today, the tech crew joins the cast for the first time. They only have a week to learn everything they need to about the show--and they always pull it off! Our tech crew, made up of Tuckahoe 5th graders, create the lighting design, makeup design, and sound design. The tech crew watches the run-throughs of the musical, and makes decisions such as when amplification should be used, whether that night scene should have blue tones in the lights, and if that student playing an elderly character should have age lines or a beard created with makeup. Led by production manager Samantha Foti, the tech crew runs the show backstage by operating the lights, spotlight, microphones, scene changes, and applying stage makeup.

These past ten weeks have been a real challenge for Tuckahoe students; a task they have taken on with energy and dedication. This original musical is being designed, created, produced and performed by students, culminating in a one-of-a-kind show that you surely don’t want to miss!

You are invited to join us for the performances Thursday, April 28th and and Friday, April 29th at Tuckahoe Elementary School at 7:00 PM. See you there!

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