This has not been an easy year for middle schoolers.
Coleytown was closed in September due to mold; 6th and 7th graders have been at Bedford ever since. Every day, administrators, staff and students of 2 schools make compromises. Everyone involved has done a great — and often unheralded — job.
But it’s one thing to move classes, or share gym and cafeteria space. It’s another thing entirely to accommodate 2 different drama productions simultaneously.
Traditionally each spring, CMS stages an all-school musical. BMS puts on a 6th grade non-musical.
Both are fully staged, with professionally produced costumes and sets. Both involve scores of students.
Directors Ben Frimmer (CMS) and Karen McCormick (BMS) agreed to keep the schedule the same as in past years. They would share space during rehearsals, but — to provide stage time for actors and the technical staff — Bedford would push its opening back to April.
Musicals require tons of space — for dancers, singers and scene work. Coleytown’s “42nd Street” was especially big. With only 3 weeks for Bedford to install their set, create costumes and the actors to transfer what they’d learned from such a small space to a big stage, the BMS show could not be technically complex.
Normally, Bedford’s non-musical is a version of a classic childen’s book like “Alice in Wonderland” or “The Phantom Tollbooth.” But with such limited room for rehearsals, plus set and costume construction, McCormick and her staff decided on a series of short stories from the 1960s “Rocky & Bullwinkle” cartoon show, called “Fractured Fairy Tales.”
They crafted 15 stories, and added short “fairy tale” commercials.
That provided 70 actors with over 240 roles to share. There are 40 narrators, 15-plus kings, queens, princes and princesses, and dozens of goblins, beasts, chickens, ogres, court jesters and peasants. Each youngster is featured in at least 2 “plays.”
They found space in hallways and classrooms. Combined with Coleytown’s set construction crews, tap dancers, costume people, there were some very noisy afternoons.
“The kids didn’t mind,” McCormick says. “They worked very well under the circumstances.”
With just 12 days of unfettered access to the stage, BMS got creative with their set. “Fractured Fairy Tales” uses a new 25-foot floor-to-ceiling movie screen as a backdrop. It features hundreds of colorful images, most from old cartoons. On stage, 20 colorful 18-inch cubes instantly turn into thrones, tables or mountains.
Transferring the off-stage rehearsals onto the large stage has taken some work. But, McCormick says, the actors are working hard on new blocking, and pumped-up motions.
Costumes were done later than usual too. BMS actors received theirs only a few days ago. Each person has 2 to 4 costume changes — some with only minutes to spare. They’re working on that too.
But this is Bedford Middle School. Like their Coleytown counterparts, the young actors and their tech crew embrace the challenge.
When the curtain rises this Friday, audiences will not even realize what everyone went through to produce “Fractured Fairy Tales.” They’ll smile, laugh and applaud. Just like every other BMS show.
(“Fractured Fairy Tales” performances are this Friday, April 26 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, April 27 at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m. Click here for tickets.)
(NOTE: Coleytown’s show — “42nd Street” — overcame several obstacles too, beyond shared space. Click here for that “06880” story.)