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Where reading comes to life
Reader's theater lets students add a dimension to reading without the stress of a full production.
By Times Staff Writer
Published December 5, 2007
[David Degner | Times]
Seventh-grader Blake Sieber, 12, laughs during a practice reading of Mr. Scrooge's Christmas. Blake plays Topper and the "First Man." Hudson Middle School Players will perform a reader's theater version of the holiday tale Thursday.
HUDSON - Jack Field auditioned for the role of Ebenezer Scrooge about four years ago, even though the director thought he was more of the "Jacob Marley type."
"I just didn't see him as Scrooge," Rhonda Starr said with a shrug.
But Field's booming voice and avid enthusiasm for the role made Starr change her mind. It seems those qualities really matter in a genre where you're depending solely on voice, facial expression and the audience's imaginations to pull it off.
Reader's theater has been performed for years in schools and even on Broadway.
"It's fantastic," said Field, a language arts teacher who after three years still holds the lead part in the Hudson Middle School Players' presentation of Mr. Scrooge's Christmas. "There's no pressure with memorization or props."
There's also no moving around for the 12-member cast of students and teachers. Folks just sit in chairs reading scripts.
The genre makes it easier for shyer types, said Linda Bell, cast member and co-teacher of math and language arts. "I'd be afraid to be on a stage. But I enjoy doing this where you can sit."
Reader's theater is also touted as a valuable teaching tool - one that brings enjoyment back into reading, particularly for students who are inundated with FCAT-type lessons.
"It's entertaining. It's just fun to act things up," said Ben Kellison, 12, who has taken the parts of "Man 3" and Scrooge's nephew "Fred."
Even reluctant readers seem to like the performance part, said reading teacher and cast member Ginny Wilson. Repetitive reading helps with fluency, she said.
Director Starr, a 12-year language arts teacher at Hudson Middle, majored in theater at the Academy of Dramatic Arts and used to sponsor an after-school drama program.
Drama is all too often thought of as an "extra" in many schools, she said, emphasizing how important the experience can be - especially for students who will be expected to stand before judges and present their required senior projects a few years from now.
Then she realized that more and more of her students were having a difficult time memorizing their parts.
"With all the pressure these kids are under these days - I didn't want to add to that," she said.
She found that reader's theater was a fine alternative. "I think there's a ham in everybody."
IF YOU GO
The Hudson Middle School Players will perform Mr. Scrooge's Christmas during the school's Family Night from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday.
The group also will perform at 6 p.m. Dec. 17 at Books-A-Million. The event is free, but donations will be accepted to defray the cost of medical expenses for Noah James Nero. Noah, who was born Sept. 21 at Spring Hill Regional Hospital, is being treated for a heart anomaly at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. He is the son of Cherish and Bill Nero. Bill Nero teaches at Hudson Middle School. Noah's story was featured in a Nov. 27 Pasco Times article.