While the upcoming school production of the musical Grease has over 50 cast members, there are some theatre students that have never had to sing or dance in front of an audience. This inspired theatre teacher Teresa De Zarn to hold a “Musical Theatre Week,” in which all of her students would practice choreography and singing. Because of scheduling, the week-long experience ended up lasting a little longer than planned, but De Zarn felt the lesson was worth it.
“I thought it was very important to give appreciation to the acting in musical theatre,” De Zarn said. “A lot of people assume musicals are just songs thrown together and just for singers, but the actors involved really have to apply their acting methods and techniques in order to be successful. I wanted my kids to be able to respect all that has to be done, and also get the chance to try it out.”
To help teach the theatre students, De Zarn brought in choreographer Shannon Kapp and pianist Mary Lou Boylan. “I could have just taught choreography myself, but I thought it was a better idea to have the students experience how a professional works and how it would be in the real world. I thought she did an amazing job and she was great with the kids.”
“Mary Lou was also a joy to have,” De Zarn said. “She has a lot of experience, and is one of the skilled pianists that knows how to follow the singer and assist them. At 84 years old, she is still so much fun and never stops working.”
At the beginning of the week, De Zarn brought in books with sheet music from different musicals for students to choose from. Every student then chose a song to work on, and at the beginning of the following week they performed with Boylan in front of the class. The songs included “Castle on a Cloud” from the musical Les Miserable and “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” from the musical Grease. For choreography, the classes each did a group dance to the song “One” from the musical Chorus Line. De Zarn said the best part of the week was seeing students discover talents they didn’t know they had.
“It’s really fun for a teacher when students have a ‘light bulb moment’ and realize they’re actually pretty good at something they wouldn’t expect,” De Zarn said. “Even kids that were against the idea of dancing or singing at first eventually found their niche, and I think everyone got something out of it.”
“I think this week opened a window for a lot of people,” senior Theatre IV student Courtney Dunne said. “As a freshman, I would have loved to have an opportunity like this. I think it really shows people that it is possible to keep up with more experienced students and discover hidden abilities.”