The performing arts are alive and thriving at Rye Neck Middle School.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
The performing arts are alive and thriving at Rye Neck Middle School. Not only do students participate in a myriad of theatrical programs and field trips funded by the PTSA Cultural Arts Committee, but they have a number of opportunities to grace the stage as well. Sixth, seventh, and eighth graders will be performing “Thoroughly Modern Millie, Jr.” at the Rye Neck Performing Arts Center June 11 at 6:30.
“I love Middle School theater because it gives students the opportunity to participate, whether they are have any experience or not,” said Drama teacher Yvette Goldman. “It also gives students who don’t do sports another avenue to explore.”
Both cast and crew have been rehearsing after school with Director/Producer Goldman, as well as professional choreographer Jesse Pellegrino and musical director Caitlin Corvini, the Middle School’s music teacher.
“We chose ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie, Jr.’ because we like the 1920s and it’s a fun show with a big ensemble,” noted Goldman. “We also love the layers. First, we have the script, then we add music and lights, and then costumes and make-up. The students get so excited to see it come together.”
It’s not unusual for Rye Neck graduates who were first exposed to theater through Goldman to return and lend a hand. On board this year are alumnae Samantha Gerhardt as Assistant Director and Nicole Violi as Stage Manager.
Having just completed her first year at Marist College, Violi said, “I like to come back because these are my theater roots. I learned everything from Ms. Goldman.”
Gerhardt, who currently teaches at White Plains High School, added, “I enjoy keeping the tradition of theater alive and being able to hand it off to a younger generation here at Rye Neck.”
Volunteering as assistant choreographer is Rye Neck High School sophomore Justin Sturgis, who won the Metropolitan High School Theater Award for best actor in a supporting role in “Shrek” last year. “I am grateful for the chance to give back doing something I love,” he said.
In addition to heading up the musical, Goldman is a big proponent of integrating theater into the middle school curriculum. She believes it helps kids navigate the real world by building confidence, fostering an excellent work ethic, and cultivating long-lasting friendships.
All sixth-grade classes will be performing fables for one another mid-June. Goldman is using scripts written by former Midland Elementary School teacher Albert Cullum, who is the revered author of such educational works as “Shake Hands with Shakespeare.”
“The stuff the students come up with is amazing,” she remarked. “Drama is creative and cooperative, not competitive. All the kids get to shine individually.”