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Castaic students take to the stage

Fourth- through sixth-graders perform song and dance numbers

Posted: July 27, 2009 9:43 p.m.
Updated: July 28, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The GATE Summer Enrichment program students sing "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" from "My Fair Lady" as part of the original program, "Don't Stop Believing," presented at Castaic Middle School on Thursday.

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Dancing and singing their way through the summer heat, elementary school students from the Castaic Union School District took center stage at Castaic Middle School as part of a summer school enrichment program.

Fourth- through sixth-grade Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) students from Live Oak, Castaic and Northlake Hills elementary schools joined the theatrical-based summer program to create the original student production, "Don't Stop Believing," which they performed for family and friends July 16.

Victoria Lopez, 9, was one of 50 GATE students who took part in the summer production.

"It was a really fun experience to be in the show, and we got to make up our own ideas," said Lopez, a Castaic Elementary School fifth-grader. "I learned so much and I can't wait to do it again!"

The musical theater program is in its fifth consecutive year, offering summer enrichment to GATE students in the district through a performance art experience, which culminates in two student productions at the end of the four-week term.

Once a theme is selected, students are encouraged to explore their creative sides through the process of writing the show's script and incorporating design concepts into the production.

The theme for this year's program show was "Follow your dreams."

"We wanted to choose a theme that would speak to everyone," said co-director Chad Olivera. "Teaching someone to follow their dreams is something we can all learn from."

The students had a chance to learn more about their own dreams during the making of the show, which was about factory workers, played by students, who labor under oppressive circumstances while longing for freedom to follow their passions in life.

Musical numbers from theater classics included "It's a Hard Knock Life" from "Annie" and "If I Were a Rich Man" from "Fiddler on the Roof."

Cast member James Meske, 11, had one idea about the importance of big dreams.

"The show teaches us that people have crummy jobs that they might not like to do, or bosses that are mean, but you should stay true to your dreams because that is who you are," said James, a soon-to-be sixth-grader at Castaic Middle School. "Who knows? The mean boss might have dreams too."

James led the student cast members in the opening song, "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes," and joined his classmates in the setting of a bubble-wrap factory as workers imagined better lives and realized dreams throughout the hour-long production on stage.

"It is wonderful to see the students' imaginations come to life like this," said Neal Schneider, Northlake Hills fourth-grade teacher and co-director of the production.

"They really made this show their own," Schneider said.

Students put the production together in only 16 days under the guidance and supervision of their directors as well as choreographer Amanda Hart and visual arts specialist Cynthia Hatton.

"We are so fortunate to have professionals in the field who are willing to come in and work with the children," said Lisa Bloom, director of instruction and special projects for the district.

"The kids love working with them and end up having such an enriching experience," said Bloom, who also served as executive director.

Cast members weren't the only ones who walked away with a positive experience.

"The kids here today learned that life is what you make it," said Michael D'Errico, whose 9-year-old daughter, Marisa, played in the show.

"It is important for all of us to remember that we should follow our dreams. It's great that the students got a chance to create that concept out of their own minds."

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