Art of Acting Highlighted in Saint Matthew School Christmas Production

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From Saint Matthew School

When the Tyrone Community Players agreed to host a week-long theater workshop last year as part of Saint Matthew School’s Artist in Residence Program, they knew it was to be a partnership that would inspire future theater lovers. Building on last year’s workshops, TCP chose the art of acting as a focus for the upcoming Christmas production. “Training a new generation of children in the magic of theater is such a rewarding experience,” said Cindy Bennett, a TCP veteran and Board member. “Acting is not for everyone, but everyone benefits from learning how to express themselves in front of others and becoming confident with talking in public.”

This year’s production, No Vacancy, tells the story of several animals who live in Bethlehem and are not looking forward to the large influx of visitors coming to pay their taxes. The animals team up to try and encourage one visiting couple, a man and his wife who is with child, to leave town.

“The play is really funny and offers the students an opportunity to work on timing when delivering jokes as well as including body movement to convey a character’s motivations,” Bennett added.  

Fifth grader Grayson Vaughn, who plays the ringleader of the animal crew, Micah Mouse, found this production a new challenge. “We have spent a lot of rehearsals learning how to use our voices to help the audience understand our character. Then we added how to move and actions that were things our animal would do. It has been really fun trying to make my body act like a mouse.”  

The other part of theater magic is what happens off stage. TCP member Nancy Sloss spearheaded the creation of costume pieces that would help the actors become their character. “It would be easier to just give each child a costume to wear, but to truly develop an appreciation for theater, an actor needs to recognize all the work that goes on backstage before the actor steps on stage.” Each actor was tasked with making a main costume piece. A baseball cap was used to fashion the head of an animal. “This is an effective way to let the audience know what animal you are and still manageable for young hands to complete.” Sloss explained. “Styrofoam balls for eyes, foam sheets for ears, and different yarns and materials for fur is a great base. Then each child gave their animal personality by adding additional decorations or adornments.”

” I am a sheep and I really liked making my hat,” preschooler Rory Good exclaimed. “It has funny eyes and is fuzzy.”

Fourth grader Elyana Hewitt shared, “When I was told I was a donkey, I wasn’t sure what I would wear. Making the hat was great because I was able to add a long mane, eyelashes, and even jewelry to make it special.”

“Our goal is to expose these young students to all aspects of theater from acting to set and costume construction to lighting and sound,” Bennett interjected. “They also made festive pinecone bird feeders to hang on the forest trees on stage, but then take home for their yard afterwards.  In addition, Phil Hoy shared the art of lighting with the older students who were fascinated to learn how to create different lighting effects and ways to make the actors more visible.”

The Saint Matthew School Christmas Program, which was presented on December 13, consisted of vocal and instrumental selections by the students, under the direction of music instructor Deborah Johnson, followed by the musical performance. The entire performance is posted on the Saint Matthew School Tyrone Facebook page stmatthewschooltyrone.

Intermediate teacher Roberta Woomer commented, “Our students are so fortunate to have this opportunity to share their God-given talents. There is no better way to celebrate Christmas than enjoying the joy exuded by these young children.”

[Photos: (Top) Saint Matthew School students recreate the Nativity scene as part of their musical production, “No Vacancy.” (Inset) TCP member Nancy Sloss works with Saint Matthew School students to create a sheep hat as part of their costume for the annual Christmas program.]