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Full Season from 'Secret Garden' to 'Peter Pan'

In November, "The Secret Garden" kicked off a very full performing schedule for the Theatre Department at MVHS. The stage adaptation by Sylvia Ashby of Frances Hodsgen Burnett's classic story transported audiences to the dismal moors of England as they shared the discovery of spring and rebirth in Mary Lennox's world. The cast of "The Secret Garden" was invited to Woodley Hills Elementary to help kick off their literacy campaign. The 4th through 6th grade students had been reading "The Secret Garden" and the cast came to perform some scenes from the show for them and to answer questions.

February saw the return of the Children's Show Series. This year's offerings were "Livin' de Life," "Princess and the Pea" and "A Tale of Sleeping Beauty." The February Children's Show Series was started four years ago as a way to introduce our youngest audiences to the excitement of live theatre. Ticket prices are set as a minimum donation instead of a required ticket price so as to make the program more easily accessible for any income family. The series specifically targets the pre-school to elementary school aged audience member. "A Tale of Sleeping Beauty" was an audience participation play that utilized many children from the audience for a variety of parts. As in the past, arrangements were made with local Girl Scout and Daisy troops for a special question and answer session with the actors and a backstage tour.

FEBRUARY ALSO saw the start of rehearsal for the spring musical "Peter Pan." Auditions for the high school students had taken place in December. There were separate auditions held for local elementary students to participate as well. The "Peter Pan" cast has students from Washington Mill, Woodlawn Elementary, Ft. Belvoir and also from the home school community. Director Caren Hearne felt it was important to include younger students in the cast. "The show was written for children about children, I felt that children were an integral part of the telling of the story." Incorporating the younger students into the cast has been a great experience for all involved.

The rehearsal process for the musical is very intense. With only two months of rehearsal the cast not only learned the songs and dances, but also has taken stage combat classes and flying lessons. Stage Combat instructors were brought in to conduct the classes, covering the basics of hand to hand stage combat. Captain Hook, Peter Pan, their understudies and the fight captains also went through a mini-fencing class, in addition to the hand to hand class. With two major fight sequences and a couple of secondary sequences; an entire week was devoted to choreographing and working the fight sequences. The addition of Flying by Foy over spring break was the crowning touch. Peter, Wendy, Michael, John, Jane and their flight crews all worked very hard to make the flying sequences seem effortless. By the time they had choreographed all the flying, no one was complaining anymore about having to give up their spring break for rehearsal. The flight director from Flying by Foy arrived on April 5 and for three days the cast and crew of Peter Pan went through the rigors of flight training. From installation of the equipment to all the safety training and flight choreography, it was a very intensive, but rewarding experience.

THE REHEARSALS for "Peter Pan" also brought about the return of the "theatre jocks." Two days a week Mrs. Hearne takes members of the cast into the weight room at MVHS. "For many cast members, especially Peter, stamina is very important. Our Pirates are doing lifts and lots of running as they chase the Lost Boys and Indians repeatedly throughout the show," says Hearne. "It's important that the actors stay in top physical condition."

"Peter Pan" will open on Friday April 16 and run for two weekends. The closing performance on Sunday, April 25 will be sign interpreted. For more information about Peter Pan performances or to see pictures of past productions or recent special events, go to http://www.mvhstheatre.org