Seniors in the Visual and Performing Art Academy (VPAA) at Salem High School are using all they’ve learned in their theatre studies to perform “The Jumping Mouse” at 11 elementary schools. The high school performers hope younger students will learn important lessons as well.
“Children’s theatre exposes young audiences to important messages that will help them develop social skills and help them with conflict resolution,” said one VPAA senior.
Another senior performer added, “The morals taught by children’s shows teach kids more positive and peaceful approaches to problem-solving.”
VPAA theatre teacher Sharon Byrd summarizes the one-act play based on a Native American legend.
“‘The Jumping Mouse’ is the tale of a compassionate, courageous mouse who journeys to a far-off land, travels beyond the plains, climbs the top of sacred mountain and ultimately becomes a magnificent soaring eagle. The story encourages us to be kind, selfless, believe in ourselves and have faith in our dreams and what we know to be true in our hearts,” said Byrd.
She explained that the VPAA organized its senior theatre students into touring groups beginning last year. They refer to the touring arm as the Academy Children’s Theater Company (ACTC).
This year, three groups of 10 students each are visiting elementary schools. Performers bring a story to life with minimal set, props and costumes and without extra lights or technology. Students in the Visual Arts strand help create some set pieces and costumes.
“We began the ACTC as a way for seniors to demonstrate the complete transfer of knowledge from a theoretical understanding of playwriting, directing, producing and acting to the act of doing,” said Byrd. “It is the ownership of theatre that we hope to impart to them on their way forward. The seniors have learned the difficult process of creating theatre from scratch and the effectiveness of providing theatre for our community.”
While the goal of the performers is to move their audiences and leave a lasting impression, the touring seniors have been impacted as well.
“The joy we get from watching our audience is priceless! This may be their first theatrical experience and they will remember us forever,” said one senior.
“It’s important to us as performers to understand the energy it takes to create a show, travel with a show and perform a show, while maintaining a high performance level,” added another student. “If you don’t, kids know and they will tell you!”
VPAA students will host two final performances of “The Jumping Mouse” at Salem High School May 11, at 11 a.m. and June, 2 at 6 p.m. Both shows are free and open to the public.