Students collaborate with playwrights

Some of the students at M.S. 74, the Nathaniel Hawthorne School, are increasing their knowledge of theatre through the school’s drama program and will be performing the original play “F5 … And Tim” on Friday, November 30.
Drama teacher Kathy Cooley said that the school has been working with an after school program for a couple of years and recently was looking for ways to have drama throughout the entire school year. Last year, following the annual large musical production, they added the smaller show “Yo! It’s Middle School Charlie Brown.” This year, they have added another show before the musical as well as a Crew Club, where students learn the technical aspects of theatre.
The students are currently in rehearsals for “F5 … And Tim,” an original play written by after school drama instructor Jason Spagnuoli with collaborators Hugh P. Klitzke and Patricio Robayo. It is about a group of girls who drink an experimental serum in their Gatorade by accident and get superpowers from it.
“It’s pretty cool to have superpowers,” said Alexa Poligis, an actress in the show who plays a villain. She said that she really wanted to get involved in a production last year but wasn’t able to and that she is looking forward to her first show.
Poligis’ mother, Cathy, volunteered her knowledge as a dancer and choreographer for the show. She said that she and her daughter worked together to create the dance moves and said that the kids have been getting better every day.
“It’s just been great,” she said. “The kids are wonderful.”
Spagnuoli said that the students, who are between 12 and 14 years old, also contributed to the play’s story. For instance, they were asked to write essays about what a hero was to them, and portions of the essays were inserted into the show.
“I had the idea but I used them to improve to come up with certain scenes I had a hard time with,” said Spagnuoli, who also worked with the students last year with his show “Yo! It’s Middle School Charlie Brown.” “This is really a collaboration between the kids and I.”
Crew Club teacher Jason Korczinski said that during this production he has taught students basic technical aspects so that when it is time for the larger production of “Fiddler on the Roof” in April they will have a solid foundation of knowledge to start with. He said that he has already seen some of the students grow through their participation and learn what they are supposed to be doing.
“The lessons that they learn from doing a show are life lessons put into this little laboratory,” said Cooley, adding that they learn responsibility, self-control and group work, among other things.
Eighth grader Stern Huang, a member of the Crew Club, first began doing work on productions last year. He said that this year he has been learning how to put up lights and that he will be managing the lights for “F5 … And Tim.” He said that the biggest benefit of being involved has just been having fun.
“F5 … And Tim” will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, November 30. Admission is free. M.S. 74 is located at 61-15 Oceania Street in Bayside. For more information, call 718-423-1232.

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