Last month, Friends School of Minnesota 3rd and 4th graders performed their original play Within A Gem,  a musical mystery which takes place at Plumnut Academy for super heroes. The kids did a wonderful job throughout this whole process.

Yes, we put on a play.  But students also learned a great deal about working together and depending upon one another. They learned about timing and comedy and memorization. They learned how to take direction and how to improvise. And together they created something bigger than any individual alone would be able to create.

play music number
The cast of Friends School of Minnesota’s 3rd-4th grade original play “Within a Gem” 2013

Students started working on the ideas for this play in November 2012. They met in small groups and came up with suggestions for the characters, setting, and plot line. All of the ideas were presented and discussed with the entire group of students.

As we explored all of the options, we began to narrow down the ideas to a few that seemed to appeal to most of the students. We combined characters and added new ones as we also began to create the story line, conflict and resolution of the play. Once we agreed on a very broad outline of the story, students began to meet in groups of four with a teacher to start to actually write the dialog and action of the play. Every student had a chance to add to this process and “owns” a piece of the play.

Soon it was March-time to start the casting, blocking and prop building. We all read through the play together so that students could choose 4-5 characters that they would like to be. We also asked whether anyone would be interested in being a part of the orchestra or on the stage manager team.

All of the students participated in the audition process. They described how large a part they were interested in as well as a few of the roles they wanted to act. After listening to everyone read parts of the play and try their best to show us how they would portray the characters, Chad and I chose the cast list. We let the kids know as soon as we could about their roles and were greeted with lots of smiles and clapping.

play simon, rachel, frank, paul, phoebe
Within a Gem characters Bill, Amy, Benjamin, Lippi, and Chippy rehearse lines.
play frank and addie
Characters Benjamin and Mrs. Plumnut
play city after meteor
The Mayor, Jemma and the townspeople
play lorraine 2
Miss November and Mrs. Won running through lines.

Over the next few days, the students met in groups of 5-6 to practice their lines, block their scenes and to help each other with memorizing their parts. We asked students to read the entire script several times as their homework and as a way of supporting each other in the play. We also began to work on the sets, props and costumes for the play.

play lily, jake, rohan
Orchestra members paint props too!
play addie 2
Mrs. Plumnut paints her Academy sign.
play griffin as the maypr on stage
The Mayor of Silverdale
Flying Frankie buzzes his older brother Will.
Flying Benjamin buzzes his (real life) older brother.
play teo charlie jonah ma moving props
Cast members Cookie, Casey, and a helper move props.

Practice, practice and more practice! And then-it was Thursday. We now asked the students to transfer everything they had learned to a new setting- the stage. This was a harder transition than you might think because we also added the props and set changes. The stage managers were really working now. Somehow we were able to turn a 2 and 1/2 hour practice on Thursday morning into a 1 hour 20 minute play in the afternoon and evening.

play eleanor, teo, lucas. caroline on stage
Olivia, Cookie, the gym teacher, and Mrs. Won on stage.
play emily and juliet confering
Bontha and Leila
play brad with orchestra
Music teacher Brad with the Orchestra

Here’s what the Bayou students said about their experiences:

“My favorite part of the play was Flying Frankie AND putting the props on stage. And I just really liked the play and I thought orchestra did a good job on the sound effects.”

“I just basically liked everything. My favorite thing was performing in front of the school and our parents.”

“I liked how we did the props. I liked helping paint the wall brown. It was fun.”

“This year was my first acting role and it was fun. I really loved the play.”

“I thought that the performances were the funnest part of all.”

“I really enjoyed the process of the play. My favorite part, by far, were the performances. I also liked blocking the scenes. Even though it was embarrassing, I liked doing the chicken dance. I learned that even if you think it’s going to be bad, you can change that and make it fun. I think this will be a memory I carry on for the rest of my life.”

“I enjoyed making props and the songs. How we made the meteor: We took a circle cardboard and we covered it in aluminum foil and we duct taped it.”

“It was fun doing the orchestra. Next year, I want to be a stage manager. I want to move the stuff.”

“I loved all of it- especially the makeup! At first I wasn’t too excited about what part I got but I LOVED it in the end. I also loved all the stuff we did like the writing, practicing, performing and making props.”

“I can’t believe that we did all of that in 2 weeks! The props were awesome and choreography was so cool! I liked finding out who I was in it. When we were performing it, to not be scared, you just look at the audience.”

“The play was very fun. I am glad I don’t get stage fright cause if I did, I would have been really scared. I also thought it was cool to do more stuff with the Tundra [3rd-4th grade classroom].”

“The play was very fun and I liked being in the orchestra again. I am also kind of sad that its over. Overall, I think the play was funny and very good.”

“I really enjoyed making and painting the props such as the applause-o-meter and the laptop. I also liked memorizing lines, partly because we didn’t have homework.”

“I loved being in the orchestra and I liked doing the doorbell and the triangle. I liked the play. It was awesome. I thought everybody did a fabulous job. The orchestra wasn’t too hard, I think. The seats in the orchestra were pretty decent seats.”

“I remember thinking that I had too many lines but I remembered them.”

“I liked doing the parts in the play. I also liked being the janitor. The performances were good. When I had my last line, I kind of forgot the last part.”

“The play was the best day of third grade! I feel like I got to know everybody better.”

Waiting to
Waiting to go on stage.
play harper, ana caroline
Miss Gwen, Jemma and Mrs. Won await the audience.
play maren ayuna at academy on stage
Sairy and Daisy at Plumnut Academy

Congratulations to all the students for the fine job they did!

Kak Jarvis
3rd and 4th grade teacher

There are lots more photos for FSMN families to view on my classroom pages on the FSMN website.