Minutes before their third performance on March 7, the cast of Annie was bubbling with excitement. The changing rooms and hair and makeup rooms were filled with the sounds of people practicing their lines and wishing each other luck for the performance to come. Everyone is suddenly rushed backstage by drama teacher Todd Sessoms, parent volunteers, and choir teacher Lisa Ross, and the stage lights black out. After months of practice, it’s finally time for the performance to begin.
This year’s middle school musical was Annie, the story of a young orphan whose life is changed by a billionaire who takes her out of her orphanage and into his home one Christmas.
The students who tried out for the play were cast on November 10, and they started their rehearsals soon after. For the next five months, they worked vigorously to memorize their lines and perfect their choreography.
Before performing for the third time, eighth-grader Michael Conk, who played the role of Drake said, “I don’t think I would ever feel fully prepared because I think I would always forget something, but for the most part I feel like this play has come together really well.”
Eighth-grader Elena Alexander, who played the role of Miss Hannigan said, “I’m really excited. We’ve done great the past few nights and it’s just going to be even better tonight.”
Most of the cast agreed that after all of their hard work and continuous practice, they felt prepared and excited before each performance. Conk said, “I definitely feel more confident after performing two times. I would say I’m super confident and I just hope that everything goes well.”
Many people came together to perfect the production, including the cast, a band, and stage crew. Parents and other students assisted in many ways such as hair, makeup, and costume coordinators.
Some people prefer to work behind the scenes. Eighth-grader Emma Lucas, who worked on makeup said, “I did it because I wanted to be involved in the play, because I don’t like actually being on stage. I like doing more behind the scenes. I’m interested in makeup so I thought, well why not help them out.”
Participating in a play or musical is one way to learn skills and do things that students are interested in without having to be on stage. Seventh-grader Parker Forgash, who was a member of the stage crew said, “We don’t have to memorize lines and everything. Here you kind of get to relax, have fun as a team, and it’s not just about moving props; it’s about learning where everything goes.”
According to members of the cast and crew, there were only perks that came with being in the play, and there was one repeatedly stated highlight: the opportunity to make new friends. “You get to meet kids in completely other grades,” sixth-grader Lulu Hogan, who played the role of Annie, said. “I wouldn’t have known [eighth-grader] Apollina [Barattieri di San Pietro, who played the part of Grace Farrell].”
The participants were cast with people from their grade and other grades, allowing them to get to know new people. “I would definitely say it’s worth it because I have definitely made some new friendships, among other people that aren’t in my grade,” said Conk. “I’ve become friends with seventh-graders and people that aren’t in my ensemble group, or people that I normally wouldn’t talk to.”
Even those who participated in ways that weren’t as vocal described the aspect of branching out and meeting people different from their usual friends. Eighth-grader Emma Lucas said, “You get to meet a lot of really cool kids who are all excited about the play, it’s nice to hear about where they are from and why they love theater.”
As the curtain closed on the third performance, the air was filled with bittersweet emotions. Alexander said, “I’m feeling really proud of what the cast has been able to do. I’m really proud of our performance but I’m also quite sad because we only have one left and we spent so many months working on this show and we only get four performances, so I’m not excited for it to be over.”