Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
In honor of Theodor Seuss Geisel’s, better known as Dr. Seuss, birthday March 2, the Patton Junior High School eighth and ninth-grade drama class presented a stage production of some of his stories throughout the month of March for Unified School District 207 schools. On March 11, the drama students presented the show to their fellow Patton students and teachers.
The annual performance has been presented at Patton for more than 20 years.
“In 1997, Read Across America was initiated. The event, which takes place on Dr. Seuss’s birthday (March 2) each year, is a reminder to all school children about the importance of reading,” said Penny Paradies, Patton drama teacher. “Over the years, we have presented a number of stories to the children of the district. Some years, I have even had students on stage who sat in the audience when they were in elementary school and watched the show.”
During the 30-minute performance, the students presented “Horton Hears a Who,” “Gertrude McFuzz,” and “The Sneetches.”
“A benefit of studying drama at this age is that many students discover skills that they didn’t realize they had,” Paradies said. “I’ve watched extremely shy children blossom when they portrayed a character.”
Twenty-one students embodied characters on stage.
“I’ve enjoyed performing with my classmates because it is fun to be hanging out with them after school and showing our play to students and teachers,” said Patton eighth-grader Emma Bierkortte, who portrayed a cheetah in “Horton Hears a Who.” “I like acting a lot and displaying different emotions and going into different characters.”
Patton ninth-grader Ellie Payne, who played Dr. Kate in “Gertrude McFuzz” as an understudy in the March 11 performance, agreed.
“I love to express myself, and I love to embody another character,” Payne said. “I love to try and become another character, especially if they’re a really eccentric, crazy character. I love to be wild like that because it’s who I am, just really creative.
“I love to make people feel happy, feel sad, make them laugh and cry. I like to make them feel emotions, it makes me feel important,” she said. “It makes me feel like I’m doing something. Theater has really taught me to come out of my shell and not be afraid of what other people think of you and really just be yourself and express yourself in ways you never would’ve imagined.”
Acting wasn’t the only thing students did for the performance. Each of the stories had a student stage manager, a student director and a student light technician.
“The students run the show,” Paradies said. “I’m thrilled that Patton and USD 207 realize the value of fine arts, including drama. In this show alone, we address the following skills — leadership, creativity, technology use and performing. …It’s all part of being a Leader in Me school.”
Payne said she enjoyed being stage manager for “Gertrude McFuzz.”
“I liked to be the backbone of a team,” she said. “I like to help the actors, especially as an experienced actor with actors that are newer. It’s really fun to help them learn the theater and show them the ropes of it.”
Patton ninth-grader Cameron Robichaux said he was scared at first when he was named student director of “The Sneetches.”
“I didn’t know it was such a big honor until everyone started clapping for me, but it is actually a lot of fun,” Robichaux said. “It was weird having control over everything, but I’m usually the one to take leadership in some cases, so it did come easy to me at some points, but then sometimes I needed to ask the teachers.
“Most of the stuff has led to Ms. Paradies,” he said. “We all owe her a thanks for running the program and making sure we got our props and stuff.”
Patton eighth-grader Courtney Manner, who worked lights for “Horton Hears a Who,” said she got a different perspective from being on stage.
“It is really nice to see my peers perform and to see them succeed in theater,” Manner said. “Doing tech, it is just really cool and really nice to experiment with it.
“It’s taught me how to work better as a team member and work for my cast,” she said. “I just really like theater because it is such an honest display of emotions and a story.”