This year, the fifth grade class has taken on the fun and challenging task of writing and performing an original play. The piece, called “Square Pegs, Round Holes,” takes the students’ own experiences of feeling like an outsider and uses them to emphasize the CPS values of curiosity, courage, and compassion.
The play wrestles with the hardship of not fitting in, tackling issues like racism, gender divisions, and cultural differences. However, through these difficult experiences, the characters are able to understand how their differences can also be a positive factor.
In developing the script, volunteer director Susan LaPalombara led the students through improv exercises to help generate ideas. She and Ms. Kim then helped hone their ideas into believable, compelling stories. The process helped students understand the elements of a good story, including characterization, messaging, composition, and dialogue.
“It’s really great to see them find themselves both as actors and writers,” says Ms. LaPalombara. “When you write something, you have ownership of it, and you really see that come across in ‘Square Pegs, Round Holes.’”
Though many of the characters reflect the personal experiences of the writers, the students did not always get to perform as the characters that they wrote. In the casting process, the focus was on roles that would stretch the students as actors and provide them with the opportunity to reveal a new side of themselves. The students have run with the new experience, and are beginning to add new, unscripted elements of their characters in rehearsals.
However, the process hasn’t been without its struggles. The students are employing new skills, such as memorizing lines and “covering” for each other on stage. Some students have great line memorization, but then forget to express emotion when delivering them. Meanwhile, some students are naturals at covering for missed or forgotten lines, while other students prefer to be “word perfect” and deliver all of their lines exactly as they are written.
“It’s a new learning curve for these guys,” remarks Ms. LaPalombara. “They are on stage, whether they’re performing or not, and that can be a challenge.”
But challenges are something the class is learning to embrace through “Square Pegs.” Above all, the students hope to convey the message that no matter how rough life gets or how tough people are, having a support network can help you find the courage to embrace your individuality. The play concludes with a splash of self-love from 5th grade.
“I’m really proud of them. I think that they’ve written a beautiful play.”
The original performance of “Square Pegs, Round Holes,” scheduled for Thursday, March 5th, was postponed due to weather cancellations. It was performed in the CPS Auditorium on Tuesday, March 24th at 9am and 1pm.