Performance ... The Best Medicine

Performance ... The Best Medicine

Paul VI Thespians bring fairy-tale characters to hospitalized children.

<bt>Ten members of the Paul VI Catholic High School's International Thespian Society recently brought a bit of fairy-tale magic to young patients and their families at Inova Fairfax Children's Hospital. Patients ages 3-5 sat spellbound by the 25-minute skit, "Petunia Pumpkin's Spell and Her Return to the Republic of Good," performed on Oct. 26.

The actors presented the skit, first and foremost, to entertain the children, but also to convey the idea that receiving shots was not as scary as the patients thought it was.

According to senior Marisa Behan, president of the International Thespian Society, the skit was loosely based on fairy-tale characters that the patients would be able to relate to. In the performance, an evil witch casts a spell on Petunia Pumpkin, played by Marisa, which changes her into a pumpkin. Petunia desperately wants to reverse the curse so that she can return to her former state as a princess.

While Petunia tells the children her problems, a good doctor, played by junior Stephen McGonigle, enters and tells her of a "treatment" that will reverse the spell. Unfortunately for Petunia, the treatment involves receiving shots, something she is afraid of.

Petunia's fairy-tale friends encourage her with stories about how frightened they were during their adventures. Blair Bower as Red Riding Hood tells of her fear of going into the woods to get to grandma's house, Michelle Rother as Bo Peep tells how afraid she was when she lost her sheep and Justin Mohay as Prince Charming talks about his fears before going into battle. Karen Kelleher as Peter Pan got the children and parents to crow to build confidence and courage.

WITH THE SUPPORT of her fairy-tale character friends, Petunia decides to go through with the treatment and leaves with the doctor. She later returns as the princess, wearing a regal gold gown and a crown.

After Petunia left with the doctor, the rest of the cast of characters — which also included junior Erin Maguire as Snow White, junior Erica Hopper as Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” sophomore Francesca Chilcote as Mulan and sophomore Jim McFadden as the lost sheep — helped the young patients decorate pumpkins. The students also played games with the children and told them stories of their characters' lives in Fairy-Tale Land.

"It was a good deal of fun because it was all [impromptu] — I love making stuff up on the spot," Steve said. "I loved my role. It was a good time."

Before leaving the hospital, the students went from room to room visiting sick patients who could not attend the show. "At the end, there was this little girl, and you could just tell that we made her day a lot better," Michelle Rother said.

The International Thespian Society purchased costumes from a professional award-winning costumer, and the American Music Stage donated a princess and Peter Pan costume.

In future years, the International Thespian Society hopes to continue this tradition. Marisa, the founding member, said "It's easy in the sense that once you buy the costumes, you don't need to again." Furthermore, she added that although the show did not require a lot of time to produce, the patients really appreciated the performance.

"It was really nice to see the kids be distracted from their pain and to be happy," Marisa said. "They live pretty hard lives. You could see more in the parents. It is just as hard for the parents as the kids," Marisa said.