DMS presents "Disney's Mulan Jr."

Posted on: Sep 7, 2017

DMS presents

Classes may have just resumed in Delano, but nearly 70 middle school students have been hard at work since the end of July preparing their fall production of “Disney’s Mulan Jr.”

The fruits of their efforts will be on display in performances at 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 14-15, at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17.

“Disney’s Mulan Jr.” is a theatrical version of the well-known children’s movie. It tells the story of a young girl in China who disguises herself as a man to take her father’s place in the emperor’s army and help resist a Hun invasion. Along the way she is aided by her humorous dragon companion, Mushu, through a journey of action and adventure.

“I chose it because it’s a Disney show and those are always fun to do,” said longtime theater director Barb Roy, who manages both high school and middle school productions for the Delano schools. “I like the enthusiasm and energy of middle school actors.”

A number of those actors team up to present some of the lead roles in alternating shows. Abby Hohenstein and Maya Rodriguez both play Mulan, Gabby Stoudt and Moriah Tonsberg play Mushu, and Iain Lee and Ben Poll each represent Captain Shang.

“All of the leads have been in other plays and are doing a great job in ‘Mulan,’” said Roy. “All the cast are doing well.”

The lead actors are all seasoned performers, having been in theater between five and nine years.

“It’s just such a fun experience to be able to get together with all your friends and perform,” said Hohenstein, an eighth-grader. “Makeup is fun. Costumes are fun.”

“It’s always been part of my life – singing and dancing and acting,” added Rodriguez, who is also an eighth-grader. “It’s a great way to meet new people.”

Challenges and benefits

This year’s production included an extra challenge, as rehearsals began at the elementary school due to construction in the secondary building.

“This made it hard for the cast to visualize where they would be on stage,” said Roy.

Tonsberg, a sixth-grader, agreed.

“It was a really hard transition back to the auditorium because people didn’t understand how to use the boxes, the high stage and the low stage,” she said.

Still, all 57 cast members and 12 student directors made the best of the situation and have re-adapted to the middle school auditorium since relocating there in mid-August.

Whether on a familiar stage or not, Roy said that theater provides numerous benefits to the participants.

“Kids in drama learn to be team players,” she said. “They learn to be responsible. They learn to stretch their imaginations and creativity.”

Among the extra benefits named by Poll, Lee and Stoudt were improved confidence and diction, more poise in public speaking, and strong overall communication skills. The students also enjoy the thrill of stepping into a new identity.

“They say it isn’t a good thing to be something you’re not, but acting is a fun way to be something you’re not and experience a different personality or side of you that you haven’t seen before,” said Stoudt.

While the cast and crew have done all in their power to put together a quality performance, including countless hours outside of rehearsal memorizing lines and music, one vital element in the experience won’t materialize until the lights go up on opening night.

“I can’t emphasize the importance of an audience to this process enough,” said Roy. “Come and see the show and support the efforts of these young thespians!”