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Photo courtesy of Mario Matos, Jr.
Students performing Charlotte's Web at Maspeth High School in front of an audience of elementary school students.

Students at the Maspeth High School Theater Department gave back to their community in March when they put on a free show for elementary school students in the area.

From March 22 to 27, the young actors welcomed students from P.S. 128, P.S. 88, P.S. 31 and P.S. 89 to see a performance of “Charlotte’s Web” and get a chance to ask the actors questions after the show. Mario Deras, a theater teacher at Maspeth High School, said the concept came form his desire to help kids learn about theater at a younger age, and it was a big success. 

“Seeing the elementary schools kids’ reaction to the show, hearing their laughs and cheers highlighted its successful run,” Deras said. “Many parents and teachers of these elementary schools asked if we do these shows often and if they could be invited back.”

Between the public school and home-schooled students who were invited to the shows, Deras said that approximately 600 kids got to see the rendition of Charlotte’s Web. At first, however, his students weren’t that excited about the idea of performing for a younger audience.

While some of the student-actors were “gung-ho” about the idea from the start, Deras said, others needed to be convinced that the show would mean something to an audience full of young children. Deras explained that the idea was to help those young students find a love for theater like the high school students have, but they were only truly convinced that they would make a difference once they performed the first show.

“The kids really loved meeting the elementary school students and there was a talkback where the young kids could ask questions about the story and the costumes,” Deras said. “Having that interaction was really beneficial.”

From there, the actors were already looking forward to the next show. While the young students in the audience got a behind-the-scenes look at a theater production, the high school actors also had much to gain from the experience. Deras said that it was valuable for his students to see how different audiences have different responses and performers can feed off that energy.

After the run of shows, Maspeth High School Principal Khurshid Abdul Mutakabbir released a statement encouraging the community to continue enjoying the school’s arts programming.

“Maspeth High School’s students offer visual and performing arts events throughout the school year that are open to the entire community,” Abdul Mutakabbir said. “Our visual arts, theater, choral, string orchestra and dance students strive to make Maspeth High School a cultural arts destination.”

Going forward, Deras said his students are now sold on his concept and are already thinking of ideas for another series of shows. Deras hopes to turn it into an annual event and also wants to expand to invite middle schools to future shows.

Photo courtesy of Mario Matos, Jr.

Photo courtesy of Mario Matos, Jr.

Photo courtesy of Mario Matos, Jr.

Photo courtesy of Mario Matos, Jr.

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