The students at Rundlett Middle School may be too young to start modeling careers. But they’re old enough to make audiences laugh with their comedic spoof of the popular television show America’s Next Top Model.
As part of the after-school Performance Ensemble Group, 52 students will perform and produce two one-act comedic musicals Dec. 9 through Dec. 11 at Concord High School’s Christa McAuliffe Auditorium. The students will have spent several weeks practicing together to prepare for the performances.
“The students typically do a big musical in the spring,” said Linda Lassonde, a parent in charge of publicity. “But not every kid is musical but many still love the theater. So a few years ago they began putting on one-act performances in the fall.”
The two directors for the shows are Gabriel Cohen and Tony Bonjorno, who are also teachers at the school and are in their second year of leading the performances. They chose plays that were funny, that the kids could relate to and that had few props and costumes.
One of the performances is The Prez’s New Clothes, which was written by Stephen Murray. Lassonde described it as a spoof of The Emperor’s New Clothes. It tells the story of President William Lee, who is so busy with international politics he doesn’t have time to worry about what he wears. What he should really be worried about is all the people trying to kick him out of office. Despite this, the president feels comfortable because he has hired his close friends from his hometown for high office, according to Lassonde. For example, his local librarian is Secretary of State, and his first grade teacher is in his Cabinet.
The second one-act is America’s Next Top Model Student and is a spoof of Tyra Banks’ hit show, America’s Next Top Model. In the play, Myra Thanks and her panel of judges put a group of students through a series of silly contests to find out who is the best in the class. Lassonde said in the end it is all decided in a coin flip.
Besides being topical and funny, these plays needed to have a lot of roles because so many youngsters were eager to participate. Many one-act plays have only four or five roles but Cohen and Bonjorno needed more because the Performance Ensemble Group is so popular. Lassonde said there are students working props and lighting and even helping direct.
“Getting involved in theater at a young age helps kids build confidence,” Lassonde said. “It gets them used to speaking in front of an audience. This is a good skill to have especially when you’re young because sometimes when you’re older the fear of public speaking has been too strongly ingrained and it is hard to get past.”
Lassonde said the two directors do an excellent job working with the students and teaching them the fundamentals of theater.
“It is a great introduction to theater,” Lassonde said.