BOONVILLE — Students at Boonville Elementary School will take the stage this weekend in a production of “My Son Pinocchio.” Thirty-one children in fourth, fifth and sixth grade are involved in the play which be held at the school at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.
“It’s going to be great,” said Molly Maske, a sixth-grader at Boonville Elementary who has been involved in the school plays since fourth grade. Maske will be portraying Sue the Fairy.
Boonville is the only elementary school in the county that has a theater program and it is a huge hit with students, parents and the community.
“Through our theater program students gain self-confidence and poise,” said Miranda Lowder, a third-grade teacher at Boonville and director and choreographer for the production. Lowder began doing theater in elementary school at Yadkinville and said it was the first time something “really clicked” for her. When she began teaching seven years ago, it was important to her to give her students the opportunity to experience theater.
“I really feel like the kids benefit so much from being on stage and having a way to express themselves,” she said. “They also learn how to be a team. In theater, you all have to work together.”
Students at Boonville auditioned and began rehearsing for the show in December. Throughout the course of the rehearsals, they also learn theater terminology and “when they are finished with the show they have the skill set to audition for community or professional theater,” Lowder said.
“My favorite thing about the plays is how brave they have made me,” said Kennedy-Grace White, a sixth-grader who will be playing the role of Rosa the Fairy. “Without them I would still have stage fright.”
Parents of the children involved in the Boonville student plays are also proud of the confidence the program has given to their children.
“The arts help children have a strong outlook on life and builds self-esteem,” said Brian and Dea Hammesfahr, parents of Gabe who will be playing the role of Pinocchio. “Both of my children have come alive with Miranda’s help. I hope the community of Boonville will continue to support this program.”
There was high praise from both students and parents for Lowder and the other staff members of Boonville Elementary who work with the theater program, now in its seventh year.
Dr. Ginger Holt serves as the music director and art teacher Marissa Brooks designs the set. Todd Philips from Sound and Light Productions provides the lights and sound.
“We are thankful for the hard work and time Ms. Lowder, Dr. Holt, Ms. Brooks, and all the other staff volunteers have put into the Boonville Elementary theater program year after year,” said Mikey and Jeannie Bumgarner, parents of fifth-grader Maggie who will playing Signora Giovanni.
“Our daughter, Maggie, joined the cast last year and because of this program we have watched a shy little girl grow into a confident young lady. The time spent working on these productions has shown her a work ethic, a love for theater arts, and the confidence to perform in front of a crowd. This has led her to do five other productions with three other theater companies in the past year.”
The students, too, agreed that the work Lowder, Holt and Brooks put in to the production is what makes it such a success.
“The main reason I like our plays so much is because of our amazing director, Ms. Lowder,” White said.
“Ms. Lowder is one of the most caring people I know and she is the reason I started doing the plays in the fourth grade,” Maske said. “She taught me almost everything I know about acting. I would definitely do another play at Boonville Elementary School because of all the love and care Dr. Holt and Ms. Lowder put into it. Without them I would not have gotten this far with acting.”
Kaylea Talton, a sixth-grader who will be playing the role of Violet the Fairy, agreed that the show would be “great.”
“I have been in the play for three years now and it has been wonderful,” Talton said. “It has taught me to become brave and how people will accept me even if I can’t dance at all. I have become a better singer and dancer. The only way this happened was because of our director. I have seen many plays and I think ours is the best. I have enjoyed these years. Thanks for all of the hard work and the endless hours of practice. It’s going to be great!”
On top of the “endless hours of practice” that Lowder puts in with the students at Boonville, she also spends many hours rehearsing and performing in shows herself, but said it was time well spent.
“I feel blessed to share the world of theater with students,” Lowder said. “I was lucky to have Patty Grant introduce me to theater [at Yadkinville Elementary], and I love that I am passing it on to the next generation. I am still active in community theater today.”
Lowder just finished a run as “Mayella in “To Kill A Mockingbird” at Community Theater of Greensboro and will be playing Daisy in “The Great Gatsby” at Twin City Stage in Winston-Salem next month.
“I go straight from my rehearsals at school to my rehearsals for the show I am in. I don’t get home until 10:30 or 11, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I do not take any of it for granted,” she said.
Lowder also said what she was very proud of was the community support for the shows at Boonville Elementary.
“I always get nervous that people aren’t going to come, but our community has really come out and supported this program,” she said. “Without community support, our program wouldn’t be what it is.”
“My Son Pinocchio” opens at Boonville Elementary School on Friday at 7 p.m. Additional performances will be held on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Doors will open an hour before the show begins and tickets are $6 per person.
Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.