‘There’s No Place Like Home’ … Or the Pines Bridge and Walden Schools!

December 20, 2017

During a recent production of the Wizard of Oz at the PNW BOCES campus in Yorktown, the students playing Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion gaily followed the Yellow Brick Road around the Walden Gym as parents, staff and classmates smiled, snapped photos and clapped along to the music.
To get to that scene, however, all students at Walden and Pines Bridge Schools had first “travelled” that Yellow Brick Road for about six weeks – participating in the play in various ways.  

Almost all students helped paint props, including giant cardboard figures of Glinda, the Wicked Witch, Dorothy’s friends and Oz.  Some students then learned how they would move those character props around the gym at the Dec. 15 show. Others practiced lines they would say as actors on stage or as narrators off stage.

“All of the kids are involved,” said art teacher Jesse Steiner, “They all have had a hand in putting on this play – whether they helped to paint a set or acted in the show.”  Steiner produced the play with teacher aide Debra Canzio, who adapted the script, helped run rehearsals and was everywhere on show day.
For Walden and Pines Bridge students, the annual school play offers more than a chance to shine on stage.  The work starts in art class, where Steiner will spread out tasks based on students’ abilities and their goals. Some students may do broad-brush strokes of the giant props while others learn brush techniques that can be used for helping paint a character’s face.

“It always goes back to the process, and how that translates to a specific goal being worked on,” Steiner said. The students are always excited when they go into the gym and view the artwork all together:  “When they see all the props up there, I think they feel really good thinking ‘I did that,’ ” he said.

The students who were in the play – whether they had speaking parts, pulled props, or played munchkins or flying monkeys – practiced during several rehearsals.  To put the play together, students each had to overcome their own challenges, whether that meant learning to read lines as clearly as possible, being patient with others during practice or controlling their emotions on stage.

Christian Irizarry, the Tin Man, said he had to practice a lot and was nervous when the show started – but was happy that it all went well.

“The practice and hard work paid off,” he said.  Jacob Curtis, one of the narrators, said he liked being in the play: “I’ve never been in a play before. It was fun!”

Jay Tapia said he really liked playing the Cowardly Lion, particularly the part when he tried to frighten Dorothy and Toto. Perhaps the best part, however, came after the show.

“My dad was so proud of me,” he said.
Jace Finch, the Scarecrow, said he felt happy and proud after the show.

“It was amazing,” he said. And Jace wasn’t the only one who felt that way – judging from the loud clapping and cheering that erupted after Alexis Agular, playing Dorothy, sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow to end the show. Family members, teachers, PNW BOCES staffers and students agreed it was the best Wizard of Oz ever.

Summed up Steiner, “I’m proud of all of them. I’m really, really proud.”

Caption: Christian Irizarry, Alexis Aguiar and Jace Finch played Tin Man, Dorothy and Scarecrow.