By Amanda Cooper ’18
Student Intern, Marketing and Communications Department 

One of the more extroverted Junior Scholars courses offered is Musical Theatre, open to students entering grades 4-6. Over the weeklong course, ten students, ages 9 to 11, worked together to produce a mini-musical while learning about acting, singing, dancing, staging, costume design, set, and prop creation. The students put on an abridged version of The Jungle Book. They worked each day to organize and produce the show that they later performed for their families and friends.

On the first day of the course instructor Jen Grasso taught the students about the basics of acting. She covered topics including stage directing, pronunciation, and improvisation. The students played different theater games to practice these skills. After lunch, Mrs. Grasso introduced the students to the abbreviated script of the musical The Jungle Book and the first song in the show. After reading through the script together as a class, each student independently rehearsed lines and learned a group dance. Later, each student auditioned for various roles in the show.

The morning of Day 2, after playing some theatre games to warm up, the students were assigned their roles. The class read through the script and each student performed his or her role. The students then began blocking (a theater term that refers to the positioning and movement of the actors in the stage) the show and started to learn some of the musical numbers and their corresponding dances. Later in the day the students began painting and assembling set pieces and props for the show. Using brushes as well as finger paint for texture, the students created the backdrops for the show. As they hung up streamers and stuffed animals, the kids transformed the Music Room in Hartman Hall into an intricate jungle.

Traditionally, the casting of The Jungle Book would be different than the way Mrs. Grasso assigned it. In the Summer Scholars edition of The Jungle Book, Mogley (the Man-Cub), King Louie (the orangutan who was crowned King of the Apes), and Kaa (the powerful snake), are all played by girls while in traditional versions they are male roles. Bagheera (the black panther) who is also traditionally played by a male was played by a female in the MFS production.

Days 3 and 4 consisted of script review and continued work on the choreographed dances. Each day students brought in more props to add to the set and backdrop for the show.

On Friday afternoon, the students opened the doors of the Music Room for their audience and performed The Jungle Book in full costume and makeup. It was a smashing success!