NEWINGTON - Once every three years, Martin Kellogg Middle School faculty and students come together to put on a drama production for charity.
This is one of those years, with Disney’s “Mary Poppins” taking place this weekend and next.
Student casts will perform this Friday and Saturday, March 29 and 30, at 7 p.m. and next Friday and Saturday, April 5 and 6, at 7 p.m. Performances by the teacher cast are set for Thursday, March 28 and April 4 at 7 p.m.
Profits from the teacher performances will benefit the Newington Food Bank and the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Tickets can be purchased online, at npsct.tix.com or at the door.
“It really is a whole school and community effort,” Drama Director Nicole Daigle explained. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the public to see our school’s strengths: our sense of community, our hard work, and the talent of our students and staff.”
The parts of Jane and Michael Banks are played by students during the teacher productions, and all of the stage crews are made up of students for all performances.
“Plus, the students attend all of the teacher cast dress rehearsals and performances and understudy the roles,” Daigle said. “They are ready to go on in case their teacher counterpart falls ill. ... I don’t know of any other group that brings students and teachers together to create a collaborative production in quite this way.”
Three different actresses play the lead role of Mary Poppins, including eighth-graders Elizabeth Barron and Caitlyn Dzialo, and teacher Rachel Ritacco.
“It’s been fun to take notes from the adult perspective, since we’re playing adult roles,” Barron pointed out.
Last year both girls played orphans in the school’s production of “Annie.”
“It’s a real change to go from hyper and misbehaved to prim and proper and telling people what to do,” Dzialo added.
The last teacher show for charity was “Shrek” in 2016. Many of the staff performers this year were in that production too, along with “The Music Man” in 2013, “The Wizard of Oz” in 2010 and “Bye Bye Birdie” in 2007.
“All the teachers look forward to this; if we could have it every year we would,” said sixth-grade teacher Karen Pearce, who plays Mrs. Banks.
Pearce teaches language arts and social studies, but during rehearsals she volunteers as an acting coach and assistant show director.
“The conversations you have with the kids outside the classroom, it’s a really neat experience,” Pearce said.
She’s been taking part in MKMS Drama Club activities for over a decade now.
“When I was student-teaching in 2008 they found out I had a background in theater and I got involved in “Beauty and the Beast,” she remembered. “Then I never left.”
Teachers Jenn McGowan, Mary Erwin and Ashley Klopfer happen to be MKMS drama club alumni, having performed when they were middle school students at the school. All three are taking part in the show.
“Mary Poppins” has bridged the gap between the generations with its timeless story and all-ages appeal.
“Many of our staff members remember seeing the movie or reading the book series as children, and now, with the new Mary Poppins movies, a new generation is coming to know and love the character,” Daigle said. “The teachers have really loved working with our students to bring the show together, and I have enjoyed seeing the students and teachers learning from each other. The play is essentially about the relationships between kids and adults, and how sometimes we need a nudge to remember that we can rely on each other.”
Eighth-grader Nick Houle is playing Bert, Mary Poppins’ longtime nomadic friend and a jack-of-all-trades.
“He is not rich, but he’s happier than most people,” Houle said while a teacher did his makeup during a recent rehearsal. “I feel confident with my singing in this show.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or email@example.com.