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Smashing pumpkin carriages, and a few stereotypes, for production of 'Cinderella'

In a typical theatrical production at Notre Dame Preparatory School, the props and scenery are "built by dads and decorated by our girls," said Maggie Ward, director of the school's upcoming production of "Cinderella."

But this fall, a sophomore engineering class at the school spent class time smashing some of the stigmas surrounding engineering — and constructing the centerpiece carriage for the fairy tale adaptation, which opens Friday, Nov. 11, at 7:30 p.m. in the school's auditorium.

"Most of our classmates thought this class would be boring, but now a lot of them are jealous because we got to build this carriage," Michelle Stanley, 15, of Reisterstown, said. "It was a great experience."

The project, for which the drama department was the class "client," began with the small engineering class being broken up into three design groups.

Each group had to follow specific size and structure requirements, such as the fact that Cinderella's carriage needed to be moved by the dancers in the show, and had to be large enough to hold two people.

Each of the groups had a similar idea — a sparkly, pumpkin-shaped carriage that fit the "lovey-dovey" mood of the play, said Mary Claire Hudak, 15, of Timonium.

The final design incorporates several of the girls' ideas. A crown that will be placed atop the carriage, a heart-shaped door, and the swirled design of the wheels were taken from other groups' designs and integrated into the chosen plan.

The carriage itself is an elongated wooden octagon wrapped in gold paper, with copper-painted PVC pipe arched above it.

Dancers in the show will be able to move the carriage to stage-left and stage-right by pulling golden chains attached to each side.

Cusick said that this year's inclusion of an engineering class as a 10th-grade elective was the result of the school's push to increase students' awareness of engineering as a career path.

"Girls are so underrepresented in engineering," Cusick said. "We thought if we can get them into it in 10th grade, it's early enough that it's still something they can pursue in college if that's what they want to do."

Michelle Stanley said the class is reinforcing her desire to enter the field.

"I'm pretty set on being an engineer," she said. "It's really nice to get a feel for if you want to do the job."

Others came to the elective out of curiosity, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

Emma Craig, 15, of Westminster, wanted to switch out of chorus, and knew some of her friends were taking engineering, so she signed up.

"It's a new experience for me," she said. "I didn't know what to expect."

Now that she's been in class for a couple months, Craig relishes the differences between her engineering class and the rest of her classes.

"We don't have to sit and memorize things here," she said.

On top of the positive educational experience, the class has also learned lessons in working professionally with people with whom they may not see eye-to-eye.

"It was a good way to learn how to work together," Emma said. "It taught us how to compromise with each other. It's not just your idea, it's everyone's."

Ward said the unconventional collaboration between the drama department and the engineering students is in line with the school's desire to explore and foster all different kinds of talent in their students.

"I think the kids have learned a lot and, ultimately, that's the goal," Ward said.

"Cinderella" will be presented by Notre Dame Preparatory School, 815 Hampton Lane, Towson, Fri.-Sat., Nov. 11-12, 7:30 p.m.; and Sun., Nov. 13, 3 p.m. Tickets in advance are $10, or $15 at the door. Proceeds from refreshment and flower sales benefit the NDP Friends of the Arts. Call 410-825-6202, ext. 1004, or

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