Concord Students Find New Skills and Personal Growth in Xanadu
by Kimber Lynn Z. Drake, Correspondent
When Hannah Vincent agreed to take the helm for the returning Concord Middle School theater program, she knew there would be challenges. It had been three years since the middle school’s last musical production, and the kids who are now her oldest cast members were still in elementary school back then.
“With that long of a hiatus, we didn’t know how the students were going to handle this kind of a project,” says Vincent, director of Xanadu, Jr and an educator at Concord Middle School. She was not discouraged, however, because she knew that in addition to being fun for the children, this would be very important work.
Experts both in the arts and in education tell us that delving into areas beyond the standard core subjects at school helps our personal growth in many ways. Michelle Barnes, Director of the Relevé Ballet Workshop of Wellesley, MA asserts that theater in schools gives us a low-risk environment in which to learn something about who we are.
“Art is all around us, not just in museums,” states Barnes. “It’s in video games, movies and the logo on your coffee cup. Whether we eventually become an engineer, an opera singer or a firefighter, we all need to have a chance to explore what we can do artistically at an early age. Can I draw? Can I act? You can’t know unless you try.”
Theater also helps kids to grow in ways that they couldn’t during the pandemic. Justin Cameron, Principal of Concord Middle School, sees daily the effect that the recent years of social isolation have had on students. “The middle school years are an incredibly important time for development of social skills,” says Cameron. “During those months of remote learning, these kids missed out on the practice of those skills that the school environment normally provides every day. This project gives kids a chance to work closely as a team on a complex task that happens to be really fun: putting on a show. In this non-competitive environment, they celebrate each other’s successes and find ways as a team to adapt to their shortcomings. This is a big boost for their social development.”
Over two months later, Vincent is witnessing firsthand the results of this artistic exploration and teambuilding as the cast and crew put the finishing touches on their production of Xanadu, Jr. “These kids have really impressed me,” she says. “They have dug in and taken an active role in the whole process. They are helping each other remember cues and review dance steps. Some are sewing their own costumes. This show has given them the chance to get off their phones and participate in something that requires focus, energy and dedication.”
Barnes agrees, “When you’re in a show, the feeling of team pride is extraordinary. You come together and work hard as a group to give the gift of entertainment to hundreds of people each night. And by the time you are done, you’re more than a team. You’re a family.”
Xanadu, Jr runs March 3rd – 5th, 2023 at the Sanborn building of Concord Middle School. Friday and Saturday @ 7pm, Sunday @ 2pm. Tickets are $10 and are available starting February 24th at ticketstage.com .
Concord Middle School students in rehearsal for Xanadu, Jr. Photo by Kimber Lynn Z. Drake.