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Finding out who they are on stage

Lake Middle School students presented a collection of short skits entitled "Who We Are" Nov. 12-13. Staff photo by Amber Kispert

Who exactly are middle school students? They're not quite high school students but they're not elementary students either. How do they live life in middle school? These are just a few of the questions the Lake Middle School theater showcase participants are trying to answer with their performance of "Who We Are."

The performances, held Nov. 12-13, included several short skits and pieces that were created by the students themselves.

"It was the theme of what it's like to be us," said theater director Robin Bartell. "What it's like to be in middle school, growing up, young adults and the kinds of things they go through."

Bartell said she made the decision to try something different this year because of the recent grade reconfigurations.

"Two-thirds of my students coming in here were completely new to me," she said. "So, I decided to go with the non-audition element of it."

For the last seven weeks students would come together after school to learn and practice different theater elements -- improvisation, pantomime, choreography, theatrical dance, storytelling, monologues, directing, how to project their voices and audition tips.

"These kinds of workshops are not a new idea --it's a way to get that exposure," Bartell said.

Additionally, students were given the task of creating small skits, surrounding the theme of who they are, for the final performance. Bartell chose the skits and which students would portray what parts.

"My challenge now has been to tie it together into something that flows and that seems to fit," she said.

Some of the themes included in the skits are the life of a middle school student, facing adversity, different ways of interpreting things and ultimately just being themselves.

Because the performance is completely student created, Bartell said the performances become lively.

"Middle school kids are really creative and a little bit wacky, so if you give them a chance and say --'Have at it and do what you want' -- it's amazing what they come up with," Bartell said. "And they have so much ownership in it now."

Lake Middle School seventh grader Abby Winston said being a part of the theater showcase was rewarding since it belonged to the students.

"Theater is basically kind of like my life -- I love seeing how it comes together," she said.

Winston said creating the storylines was challenging only in that they didn't have much time.

Bartell said over the course of the past seven weeks, she has enjoyed watching the students blossom from timid newcomers to performers ready to take risks.

"The first week I didn't know what to expect and now I see a lot of the kids taking risks, figuring out how to use their body on stage," she said.

Bartell said she is still planning on having a musical in the spring and this theater showcase performance has given her a lot of talented actors who are prepared for a full show.

"They have grown so much as performers," she said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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