By Lauren E. Prince
6th Grade student at Wertheimer Middle School
The drama teacher at Wertheimer Middle School, Cynthia Fogle, wanted to help broaden young actors’ minds by letting them audition for a play that would be presented in front of the whole school community. Ms. Fogle held auditions and based on the students’ performances, assigned roles in the performance of Alice in Wonderland. While many auditioned, only some were chosen. The classic story was played out for the Wertheimer student body during the school day and also the evening of May 15 at 7:00 for the Wertheimer community. I was able to speak with some of the student actors as well as Ms. Fogle in order to learn more about the auditions, the practices, and the excitement surrounding the upcoming production performances.
There may have been many students who auditioned, but Ms. Fogle told me that she had very high standards for students who would make the final cut. While speaking with her, she told me a bit about the process of selection. “First, I looked at [the student’s] talent. Were they able to get on stage in front of people and act? Then, I looked at discipline.” That was a very important trait for Ms. Fogle. “I do not have time to be trying to discipline someone who is taking my time away from everyone else. Lastly, I checked the [student’s] grades. It was before the STAAR [test] so I wanted to make sure their grades were strong–at least an 80.” After considering all of the previously mentioned areas, the students were each assigned to a part. Ms. Fogle was confident that she chose the students that would make the play successful.
I was pleased to be able to speak with four students who are involved with the production including Kari Willis and Samantha Estrella, who both play the part of Alice. When Kari was asked why she decided to audition for the show, she replied, “To be honest, I didn’t want to try out and [Ms. Fogle] made me.” Kari admits not doing anything specific to prepare for her audition, but must have done well in order to receive a leading role! She credits Ms. Fogle with her success as well. “She does a good job of explaining things.” Kari also mentioned how Ms. Fogle helps her and the other theater students by always encouraging them to give their best efforts. “She made us ready to perform in front of audiences.” Kari believes that she and her cast mates are ready to show off their skills.
Samantha shared her feelings with me prior to her audition. “At first, I was scared, but since I used to be in acting, an agent and I read through some scripts and monologues to be ready.” Her hard work must have also paid off to earn the role of Alice. “[Ms. Fogle] built up my confidence,” Samantha told me. She agreed with Kari regarding the cast’s preparedness saying, “We’ve [rehearsed] a lot and [Ms. Fogle has] helped us with our lines, so I think we are all ready.”
I also spoke with Erin Johnson, who plays the part of Dor Mouse. Erin filled me in on how she prepared for her audition. “I got a good night’s sleep and worked on reading [my lines].” Erin also credits Ms. Fogle as part of her confidence and said, “She was real supportive and whenever I messed up she would give me advice. She would give you a lot of information, so you wouldn’t have any questions.” Erin went on to say, “She has [helped us] a lot and made us ready.”
Teresa Sullivan, who plays the role of the Storyteller, says that sufficient sleep was also part of her preparation. “[Mrs. Fogle] let me practice my lines and if I have problems she helps me.” She went on to admit that sometimes all of the dialogue and stage directions can get confusing, but Ms. Fogle helped her to understand it.
After listening to them share, I knew that Mrs. Fogle has done so much work to make sure that the production was great. During my conversation with her, Ms. Fogle also told me, “I have [the students] learn their lines first so that their minds and hands are free to work. I block them and try to tweak their acting as they go.” She also told me how well she thinks the actors have done, “They are doing so great that I cannot wait for everyone to see them. We are all having a lot of fun!” She also told me that doing a student production isn’t even a part of her job–she just does it to give young actors the opportunity to have fun and improve their acting skills. “This is the best job ever,” Ms. Fogle exclaimed, “When you get excited about something you love to do, life is wonderful. I can be having a terrible day and five minutes into rehearsal I’m smiling and happy.” It is obvious to me that this experience has been enjoyable for Ms. Fogle and the actors alike, and soon they eagerly shared their joy with their audience as well.
After speaking with all of them, it was clear to me that the Wertheimer production of Alice in Wonderland was a great success and made the Wertheimer community very proud. Congratulations to Ms. Fogle and her theater students for a job well done!