Gerald Kitt keeps a watchful eye on the sixth graders on the stage in the Wadsworth Elementary school cafeteria. The students are in the middle of a dress rehearsal of Aladdin, a play they will perform before other students and family.
Wadsworth began offerin g their sixth grade students a choice of elective classes last year, and these children chose drama.
Gerald and his friends, Austin Branning and Anna Viscardi, are sharing their love of the theater with Val Sanson’s sixth grade class. The mentorship-style relationship began after Sanson attended a talent show at Flagler Palm Coast High School more than a year ago and saw Gerald on stage.
“Gerald did a monologue on discrimination that was just breath taking,” Sanson said. “I told him we were just starting the theater program, and asked him if he would be willing to come and work with my students.”
Gerald’s plate was full at the time, but later in the year he responded to Sanson’s request and came to the class with other FPC drama students. He then proposed the idea of directing them in a play.
“We did Cinderella last year,” Gerald said. “We had more girls. This year we have more boys, so Aladdin was perfect.”
Aladdin was also the first play Gerald saw, and the one that steered him into acting, making which play to perform an easy decision.
Not all of the 25 students were on stage, many worked with props and helped backstage and in the sound booth.
Initially the younger students were shy and most did not want to be on stage, which made casting easier and fewer feelings were hurt. However, as the backstage crew saw first-hand the production developing, more expressed an interest to be in the spotlight in the future.
“As we go through the process they break out of their shells,” Austin said.
“We get to see them grow as performers,” Anna agreed.
Austin and Anna refer to Gerald as “the brains” behind the production.
“He wants to bring theater to all of the elementary schools,” Anna said.
The production involved more than the FPC and Wadsworth students -- Anne Paris, drama teacher at Buddy Taylor Middle School, lent her props and costumes to be used in the production.
“The collaboration is what I think is so unique,” Sanson said. “Our elementary students and teachers volunteered their time. Heather Moran from extended day worked on set designs, and having Anne Paris from next door send us those things with her blessing, and of course FPC – it’s not often you have that sharing.”