Sam Egbar hasn’t even graduated from Beverly Farms Elementary School yet, and he’s already learned an immutable truth about project management.
“Supervising people is hard because some people can be a handful,” Sam said.
His classmate Giselle Nakpil agreed. “Yeah, I know because I was one of them,” she said.
This spring, Sam and Giselle were among a group of Beverly Farms fifth-grade students who learned exactly what it takes for a team to reach a common goal. That goal: to write, edit, produce and stage their very own opera.
The fruits of their labor were realized last week as the students put on three performances of their original work, “Puzzle to the Past.”
The students worked all spring to produce every aspect of the show, said Valia Vasila, a music teacher at Beverly Farms who oversees the opera program. Sam, Giselle, and Natalie Cortez worked as the show’s managers, and other students worked as writers, composers, public relations officers, set designers, carpenters, electricians, makeup artists, costume designers, directors, and performers.
The Beverly Farms opera program began in 1998. The intention was to teach students real-life skills, said Vasila.
“[The program gives] students opportunities to take risks, make decisions, and learn … interdisciplinary skills that will enhance their lives now and in the future,” Vasila said. The program included workshops and field trips with the Washington National Opera.
“THERE’S SO MUCH more going on behind the scenes than what you’re watching [onstage],” said Meredith Bratton, who played the know-it-all character of Claire. “Sometimes we don’t know where the props are and that delayed us,” Meredith said.
“We made an electrical map of the whole stage,” said Andrew Wang, who worked as both an electrician and a public relations officer. Andrew said that the carpenters, electricians and set-designers collaborated intensely to create sets that followed the narrative from a present-day summer camp, to ancient Egypt, to an alternate present-day reality, back to ancient Egypt, and finally back to the present-day summer camp. A central set piece during two of the scenes was an ornately decorated time machine. “Teamwork is really important,” Meredith said.
“People should know we worked really hard on it,” said Asaka Uruno who helped to compose the show’s music with Will Gallagher.
WRITING THE SHOW was an exercise in compromise, said Madi Sellers.
“It took a while. Different people wrote different scenes,” she said, and the editing process to mesh those scenes together took cooperation. “The editing was difficult,” Madi said, as the writers worked to get on the same page.
The final product blended the scenes together to comprise the show’s theme, which Madi said was that looks can be deceiving and that people should choose carefully who they trust.
With the opera experience under the belts, the students said that they look forward to taking part in Hoover Middle School’s drama department next year, and hopefully Winston Churchill High School ’s after that.
“I’m so excited,” Meredith said. “Next year we’ll be able to do this and so much more.”
Madi Sellers agreed. “Because [now] we have the experience.”
“And now we know how much fun it is,” said Giselle.