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Teaching Trio Makes Wyandot’s First School Play a School-Wide Effort

Teaching Trio Makes Wyandot’s First School Play a School-Wide Effort

Nearly every first- and second-grader at Wyandot Early Childhood School will have put their own stamp on Wyandot’s first-ever school play when the curtain opens for “The Wizard of Oz” Wednesday night. 

“For some of these kids, theater is going to be their main outlet,” said Wyandot first grade teacher Len Martin, whose personal experience as a theater major and performer herself drove her to tackle the milestone project. The mother of a Lakota East theater student, she has also seen firsthand the positive impact of theater.

The venture is not a first for Martin though. She led the same production in her former early childhood school and set her sights on doing the same at Wyandot when she joined the Lakota team five years ago. She’s not doing it all alone either.

“It’s been a true community effort,” added her colleague and second grade teacher Kathy Downs, who is also motivated by her own son’s positive experience in theater over the years. “It’s my happy place, so I’m so glad she asked [me to be involved].” 

Wyandot’s Wonderlab teacher Tara McDonell finished out the trio of leaders, volunteering to complete all the sets and props during students’ rotations through the special. With each rotation, students were handed a hodgepodge of materials and a different design challenge. Then they put their imaginations and creativity to work to create everything from Munchkinland to the Emerald castle to the hot air balloon. 

“It’s been so neat to incorporate that piece because every student could take ownership and have some part in the final product,” Martin said. 

Stage filled with students dressed in Wizard of Oz costumes against rainbow backdrop

Even the size of the cast was maximized by Martin’s decision to use a version of the play that spotlights many students and splits the main roles into multiple parts. Eight Dorothy’s, for example, create the entire storyline from start to finish, each one owning a different scene.

“The format supports students who are new to theater so they can focus on memorizing lines and blocking out their scene, but don't have to worry about the whole show,” Martin said.

For first-grader Harrison Blankenship, who has tried everything from flag football to soccer to Cub Scouts, he embraced the chance to add one more thing to the list. “I like to try new things because every time you try new things, you get better at it,” said Blankenship, who plays Wizard #1 in the show. 

First-graders Lennon Day and Calum Ellis, who play Dorothy #6 and Lion #1 respectively, are not new to theater, but have enjoyed the opportunity to perform alongside their classmates. “I’m just really excited to see how it all works out and to see if the first play at Wyandot is as good as everyone hopes,” said Day, who most recently held the lead role in a community production of “Finding Nemo.”

Glenda, Dorothy and Lion on stage in front of rainbow backdrop

Martin and Downs see the long-term potential for lifelong friendships and even careers that may trace back to an early introduction to theater. But they’ve also seen the short-term impact on their student cast members too. 
The biggest one of all: “Confidence,” they both answered in unison. “We’ve seen a completely different side of students who are normally quiet and shy in class,” added Martin, recalling a similar experience the first time she saw her otherwise reserved son perform on stage.

“It is so important for kids to shine and to be celebrated for their passion,” Downs said. “And for some, they’ll find it here on Wyandot’s stage.” 
 

  • performing arts
  • specials