Thanks to funding from the Robert J. Shapiro Foundation, students at Holliman Elementary School have been testing their acting chops in the school’s new after-school performing arts club. On Friday at 6:30 p.m., they will host a community performance of “The Googies Are Coming,” an original play based on poetry by Shel Silverstein.
With the guidance and support of Principal Joseph Coffey, the Holliman Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) was able to put together this activity that was missing from the school’s lineup of after-school options.
“Mr. Coffey took the lead on this. He’s been fantastic in bringing programs like this to our kids,” said PTSO vice president Melanie Cluley.
The performing arts club was open for students in grades one through six. Around 27 students joined the eight-week program to write, rehearse and perform an original play under the guidance of Artists’ Exchange theater teacher and administrator Jessica Bradley.
“It’s been great,” said Bradley. “They are all enthusiastic, and that’s something I have loved since the beginning.”
This program has served as an introduction to all areas of theater and performance. Bradley had a brainstorming session with the students to see what kind of story they wanted. Because there were so many ideas, Bradley created a play with dialogue from Shel Silverstein poetry, set in a magical kingdom with princesses, knights, dogs, vampires and every other character these kids came up with.
“The characters they are playing, they have designed,” said Bradley. “Whenever you give them ownership, they’ll have more fun with it and be more invested in it.”
Each student has a few lines of dialogue taken from the Shel Silverstein books, “Where The Sidewalk Ends” and “A Light in the Attic.” The title of the play comes from a Silverstein poem of the same name, and a core group of students will be portraying the Googies.
“They’re all talking at once and so excited, which is great,” said Bradley.
“It’s going to be small. It’s going to be quick, but they’re going to know what it’s like to be on stage,” said Cluley of the roughly 30-minute show.
The Shapiro grant for $200, $300 from the PTSO and a $40 contribution from each participating student covered the cost of the program. Cluley said the PTSO is planning a bake sale for the night of the performance to help contribute to the cost of next year’s program.
Parents have been helping out after school and bringing in props and costumes from home. Bradley said both the parents and the staff at Holliman have been incredibly helpful.
“We’ve really been working together as a team,” she added.
As a parent volunteer for the after-school program, and a parent of one of the performers, Cluley has seen what this club has done for the students.
“Some of the kids who are shyer at school have found their place; they’re little shining stars,” she said.
That was part of the purpose of the performing arts club. Students at Holliman have a large variety of after-school programs, including karate, basketball, cheerleading, science club, and more; it seems like there’s something for everyone.
“The arts was something that was missing,” explained Cluley. “That was really important this year to make sure everyone found something, and the kids could find each other.”
Bradley would agree that the students are growing through their time on stage.
“I definitely think they’re gaining confidence and working well together,” she said.
Also, because the club was opened to students in all grades, there has also been a great deal of blending between students in different grades.
In addition to their public performance on Friday evening, the students will also have two performances for fellow Holliman students during the school day on Friday.