"All right, in the center of the stage we will have Linus, Snoopy and Woodstock. Remember Woodstock you don't speak at all. We are going to give you mime and mascot training so you can learn to express what Woodstock is feeling but only through movement," said teacher and musical co-director Jason Williams to the three student-actors. "Linus sighs, Snoopy says something and Woodstock you just shrug."
Mr. Williams, along with co-musical director teacher Mark Alpaugh, were practicing the school musical "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown." From the familiar piano refrain everyone remembers from the television to students learning about stage directions to demonstrations how to show big emotion for the stage to learning the key songs from the musical, the student-actors are hard at work after school putting on the Washington School All-School musical. Last year's musical was Schoolhouse Rock.
"You're a Good Man Charlie Brown is a great show with familiar characters that people know and love," said Mr. Williams. "Last year, we had a lot of parents and teachers coming up to me and telling me how the School House Rock songs took them back to their childhood; with the tremendous popularity of Peanuts, we should easily bring that feel-good, nostalgic atmosphere to even more audience members this year. Personally, my fondest memories of school were on stage and I wanted to pass that along to students."
Washington Middle School sixth-grader Drew Simmons (playing Linus) practices grabbing Linus’ blanket during rehearsals for the school musical.
The musical will run March 23 and 24 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium. Tickets are $2.
"It sounded really fun to do this musical," said Washington Middle School eighth-grader Abbie Johnson, who is playing Lucy. "I remember all of the Peanuts specials on TV like the Great Pumpkin. I've also learned a lot about acting and singing and met new people."
The Washington School musical is beneficial to students for a variety of reason.
"Students are often stuck in a box. They have adapted themselves to be a student, a member of an athletic team or student organization, or play as a member of a musical ensemble. They don't have many opportunities to have the spotlight and to have something that they can point at and say, 'I did that.' With a school musical, they get a unique opportunity to work as an ensemble and learn to balance their talents with those of their peers as well as the chance to stand out there on their own and be recognized as an individual," said Mr. Williams.
This type of activity also gives the students who may blend into the crowd a chance to find their voice - where they might lack the self-confidence to be themselves; they find that assurance by being a character.
"I love this musical because it's so funny. All of the comments the character make are great," said Washington Middle School sixth-grader Drew Simmons. "Mr. Alpaugh really helps you if you are not able to sing and to learn how to get the proper pitch. It's been so much fun and I've learned a lot about being on stage and performing."