Lent School kids delight audiences with original musical play

Members of this fifth-grade class wrote it, acted in it – and even took their show downtown. Find out why …

Kevin Muir, the director of the “Hot Dog Musical Theater Company” – and a Lent School fifth grade teacher – welcomes guests to a performance of his class’s play, “EarthAlerth!”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Fifth-graders aren’t known for having long attention spans. But, Kevin Muir, a Lent School fifth grade teacher, said “pre-production” for the musical play we were about to see began on “the first day of school”.

Muir, himself, is a product of Portland-area education. He graduated from Woodstock Elementary, Meriwether Lewis Middle, and Cleveland High School. “I was a lot of theatrical productions at school.”

Thinking they won a trip to Bermuda, Melani Norell, Betsy Rivera, Miguel Navarro and Alfredo Galindo-Lopez wonder why the resort to which they’ve been invited is just a poorly-painted set. Their host (from Pluto), Alan Morales (far right), tells the students of their impending fate.

Providing ‘meaningful experiences’
Throughout the year, in addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic lessons, the 24 members of his class came up with the storyline, wrote the play and songs, and choreographed the staging, Muir told us.

“The work is extremely meaningful and engaging,” Muir said. “We have five main characters, but also involved are set designers, electricians, custom designers, stage managers, public relations, historians, lighting designers, and the band.”

The best way they can think of to face being conscripted to perform in an off-planet circus is – a song and dance number!

It’s show time … on Pluto!

About the story …
“EARTHALERTH!” is a fanciful story about a handful of Earth kids who are tricked into traveling to the planet Pluto to be Cirque du Pluto Theater Company show named … “EARTHALERTH!”.

On Pluto, kids rehearse their roles in this show that “showcases” all that is wonderful and weird about their home planet, Earth. But, the evil villain, The Bananjelar (he looks remarkably like an adult-human sized banana), attacks the troupe – before leaving to destroy Earth.

Images of Earth are featured in the Cirque du Pluto Theater Company show called “EARTHALERTH!”.

The kids race back to Earth, and in a mighty (funny) battle with The Bananjelar, they save their planet – and learn that Bananjelar is really a misunderstood fruit.

The greater themes of common sense and courage and strength are woven through the play; all these are qualities that Muir said he hopes to instill in his students.

The Earth kids confront The Bananjelar.

Before we saw the show, on May 28, the production company headed downtown to perform their outer-space adventure at the Winningstad Theater. We took in a later presentation at Lent School.

Serving diverse students
After the hour-long energetic and fast-paced show, Muir said he enjoys teaching at Lent School, located in one of the oldest and most diverse neighborhoods in the city.

“I’m determined not to let the children’s demographics inhibit their ability to learn,” stated Muir. “This hands-on model of learning is both engaging and stimulating to students. Too often, education lacks a connection with the community; through this play, my students are able to work with individuals and groups from beyond the school, and then take their product out to the world. To me, that is the essence of a meaningful education.”

What play will be created by his next fifth-grade class?

“We’ll all find out in September,” Muir said. “Check in with us next school year.”

Back on Earth, The Bananjelar chills out, and the kids decide he’s not so bad after all!

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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