Bennion Junior High’s performance of Matilda was full of emotions, drama, and excitement. Standing in the dark auditorium to photograph the dress rehearsal, I felt their performative energy wrap around me. The atmosphere was so busy, I filled my mind with notes. Witnessing this play with these junior high students made my first time seeing it even more delightful.
Ms Phillips occasionally stopped the rehearsal to make a few directors’ notes, but the kids knew it was game time and the show went off without too many adjustments. After it was over and as the students realized that this was a last last experience, I saw tears, hugs, exhaustion, and heard a flurry of questions aimed at Ms Phillips. After everyone felt calm and their questions were answered, I stayed back to see a few students come just to hug Ms Phillips. What would they do without her, without theatre? This experience changed their lives and moved them forward; I could sense a reluctant few who didn’t want to let go of this chapter.
Some of the students wrote down what they liked most about being in the production and in Ms. Phillip’s theatre class:
“Theatre helped me find hidden talents that I didn’t know I had.”
“Teamwork, friendship, and getting to explore myself.”
“Theatre helped me get outside of my bubble.”
“Theatre makes you more confident in yourself.”
“Even when I'm having a bad day, I go to rehearsal and everything feels like it's going to be alright.”
“Stage crew has helped me to be more open and to make more friends.”
“Theatre class is the best experience ever.”
“Theatre class helps me to like school more. “
“Auditions for the play made me realize that I actually could be an extrovert when I want to be.”
I waited a few more minutes to talk to Emmeline, the lead actress who played Matilda. We explored ways she was different from or the same as the character she was playing.
Emmeline emphatically said that she was similar to Matilda in many ways. One significant difference between her and Matilda the character is that she is not a voracious reader: “Books need to have a good beginning to get me hooked into it; I try them and then they don’t hook me in. My parents try to suggest books and then I try them but I end up not getting past the first chapter.”
Hopefully, Emmeline will discover the books that awaken her imagination and that help her solve her own life problems, just as Matilda did. One thing that Ms Phillips loves about her class is that, “theatre is a place for everyone. There is always a place somewhere in the theatre for those students who feel like they don’t belong anywhere. The kids are inclusive and kind and they come together to make the show happen no matter how different their lives are. Giving them the opportunity to change and grow and improve their lives is very rewarding.”
The realizations, awareness, and experiences these hard-working and talented students shared will launch them into the great adventures of their lives.
View the full gallery of photos from the production taken by Lisa Gemperline here: https://lisagemperlinephotography.pixieset.com/matilda/