"The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack."
Lower and Middle School students will become wolves, monkeys, vultures and elephants as they take the stage for the upcoming production of Jungle Book Junior. Audiences will be transported to the jungles of India as students explore this classic tale of a human child raised by animals. As is customary with theater productions at Episcopal, viewers will be asking themselves – how did they do this?
For ten weeks now, students and faculty have spent countless hours together learning lines and practicing movements. Families have provided support, snacks and car rides to and from the VPAC throughout the entire process. Elaborate sets have been created and costumes have been ordered. Along the way, a remarkable thing has occurred.
The 2018 Jungle Book “pack” has been formed. This pack is comprised of students from all divisions and all backgrounds. Lower School Music Teacher Tricia Delony and Theater Director Paige Gagliano say students are getting to know each other as they serve as mentors, coaches and cheerleaders for their cast mates. This can be seen as seventh graders compliment third graders for a job well done or as young students aspire to be more like their older counterparts. Delony and Gagliano emphasize that the students are part of a whole, with each role and each performer important to the community’s success.
An Episcopal theater production is an empowering experience for student actors. Delony says as the performers learn their lines and grow to own their character, the story truly comes alive. “They become comfortable enough to dig deep and do what comes naturally,” she says. This sense of empowerment is also allowing students to share their culture with their cast mates. Eighth grader Nidhi Sthanki has choreographed the opening song as a celebration of her Indian culture. Delony and Gagliano say Sthanki has taken pride in working with her cast mates and enjoyed the process of sharing a part of herself with others.
Gagliano says theater productions are also a celebration of the learning process and that process can be messy. “Mistakes are ok,” she says. “We want the performers to stop being afraid of making a mistake.” Gagliano says even as students stumble on lines, they are gaining life skills as they move on and try again, proving that even mistakes are a bare necessity of learning.
A majority of the Jungle Book performers are athletes, academics and artists. Delony and Gagliano say having the freedom to explore multiple interests creates the well-rounded child at the heart of the Episcopal mission. In addition, these empowered actors and actresses are developing the sense of responsibility required to juggle multiple interests at one time. For example, Gagliano says students are communicating with each other about what they may have missed in the event of a scheduling conflict and some have asked to come in even if they are not on the rehearsal schedule to make up missed practice time.
In a play that explores themes of love, kindness and acceptance of others, these young performers are naturally gaining confidence, empathy and understanding. “That’s what art does. It teaches us lessons,” says Gagliano. Once the curtain closes on the 2018 Jungle Book pack, students will be left with a lasting sense of community. Audiences will know that the performances, which appear effortless for such young students, were actually the result of hard work, hours of preparation and a commitment of many to the success of the pack. That is simply how an Episcopal theater production is done.
Make plans to attend Jungle Book Junior! Click here to purchase tickets for performances that run November 12th through 15th.