On May 20th and 21st, the entire 4th grade of P.S. 76 staged the production, "The Castaways," for their family and friends. The nearly 250 students spent months preparing for this musical that chronicles the lives of ten orphans who struggle to get by in New York City at the turn of the century.
This was the first time P.S. 76 had ever staged a musical, and it was quite a challenge for both the students and teachers. The students had to learn many new things for the performance, including how to act, how to sing in musical theater style, how to dance, how to do a stage whisper, and the meaning of Upstage and Downstage. As Teaching Artist Jason Baboryk explained, "After [the students] started getting the hang of it, and the more we worked with them on teamwork, they started to enjoy the process and focus more on their characters, the music, and staging."
The students of P.S. 76 went all out for the production. They decorated the auditorium to make it look like New York City at the turn of the century. Each 4th grade class collaborated with the art teacher to create their own stores, including a bakery, a flower shop, and a bookstore. The day before opening night, the 4th graders invited the rest of the school to visit their town as a preview to the performance. They greeted their classmates in costume and showed them around their stores. During the performance itself, these shops would come to life as students acted out scenes, to the delight of the audience.
Thanks to the hard work of Mr. Baboryk, Teaching Artist Stacey Small, music teacher Jessica Parr, the students, and school staff, the performance was a huge success. As Mr. Baboryk said, "My favorite teaching experiences are the ones where the kids realize they have to work together to achieve something." The students of P.S. 76 certainly came to this realization in preparing for "The Castaways." According to Mr. Baboryk, "They knew their lines, they sang with excitement, and they had a blast."
The students were not the only ones who enjoyed the evening. Everyone in the audience was blown away by the production and extremely impressed with the students' talent and achievements. The students received standing ovations on both nights of the performance, and many parents made comments like, "That was amazing! They were soooo good. We loved it." P.S. 76 Principal Louise Sedotto herself exclaimed, "It was like a Broadway play! It was phenomenal."
The production of "The Castaways" was a special occasion for the entire community of P.S. 76 to come together to celebrate the students' accomplishments. Principal Sedotto hopes the school can experience a unique performance like this again, saying, "I was so proud. The kids were so proud."
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