South Orangetown Central School District

Proud second-grade families have been packing the William O. Schaefer Elementary School cafeteria all week for class productions of “The Wizard of Oz.” The performances are the culmination of a 20-week theatre enrichment program for second-graders which began three years ago in partnership with Stage Left Children’s Theater through a New York State Council on the Arts grant. Since then, the program has expanded to fourth grade at Cottage Lane Elementary School.

This year’s WOS program, led by Stage Left Teaching Artist Andrea Seigel, began in October with an emphasis on learning to “put feelings on their faces and in their voices.” Scripts were introduced in January and classes have worked for three months to deliver their performances this week. “We perform in choral character teams,” explained Ms. Seigel. “Performers work together to make choices about their character. It draws in students who may be shy and ensures that everyone has a role and is engaged throughout the process.”

Kerry Anne Cassetti’s class took the stage on Wednesday. Despite being the only second-graders without a partner class, Ms. Cassetti’s students delivered an encore-worthy performance. “This is such an incredible experience. I’m so proud of them!” said Ms. Casetti.

Principal Sheila Beglin says that although the program is for second-grade classes, kindergartners and first-graders previewed the dress rehearsals. “There has been a buzz throughout our school for the past week. Our younger students are excited and looking forward to their turn to do theatre enrichment.”

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction Dr. Brian Culot added, “Providing students with an opportunity to work with their peers to perform on stage at a young age helps build their confidence in public speaking. In South Orangetown, we place an emphasis on helping students develop and enhance their communication skills. The performances of “The Wizard of Oz” exemplified these principles.”

Students, teachers onstage in costumes