Teens turn into playwrights for elementary school production


Students at Benfield Elementary School are trying on their turbans, polishing their jewels and practicing country-western line dances for their performance April 29 of "Aladdin," Severna Park style.

"This is kind of 'Aladdin' with a twist," said Kathy Dennis, a parent and co-producer of the play. "It's something fun the kids can look back on the rest of their lives."

The twists written into the show by William Dunlap and Andrew Kouns, members of the Severna Park High School drama club, include characters that don't appear in the original tale, songs taken from other shows and a group of boys who break into a country-western line dance when Aladdin complains that his "achy breaky heart" is broken.

Ms. Dennis called on the Severna Park High School drama club last fall for a student to write the play, and the two students responded with their version of the popular Walt Disney movie that was based on the tale from "Arabian Nights."

"We were restricted in a way, because we had to have 50 characters in this play, and she wanted everybody to have a line," said William.

But after three months of writing and rewriting, they had a play they were proud of, said Mr. Kouns, 19. "It became a big thing to us. We were proud to be a part of those kids' lives."

The students open their play with Scheherazade, the sultan's bride who must tell a story each night to save her life, setting the stage for "Aladdin."

The producers have thrown in "Somewhere Out There," a song from Disney's animated film "An American Tale," puffs of smoke for the appearance of the genie, sound effects, elaborate scenery and ornate costumes. Parents will even set up an "oasis," complete with palm trees, for refreshments during intermission.

The teen-agers said their first attempt at writing a play together was difficult but a good opportunity for them.

"She gave us a good chance," said William. "I was very proud to be chosen to write it."

The two teen-agers will coach the actors during the final rehearsals.

This is the third year the students at Benfield have put on a spring play, and relatives from as far away as New Hampshire and New Mexico are making plans to be there.

Co-producer and parent Michelle Klein said she is not surprised that the show is drawing people from so far away.

"The response has gotten better every year," she said, adding that the production is being given in Severna Park Middle school's auditorium because a larger stage and more seating was needed.

The first spring play featured 44 children and one background set. This year, "we had a waiting list of children who wanted to be in the play," Ms. Klein said.

A group of parents spent six weeks painting four canvas backgrounds, with glow-in-the-dark paint and plastic "gems." Eight mothers have sewn more than $1,000 worth of fabric to create the glittering costumes fit for the royalty some of the students will portray.

Emily Bilobran, a second-grader who will play a palace guard, said the scenery is convincing.

"It's so much like the real movie," she said.

Casey Davis, a fifth-grader who will play Aladdin, said he thinks the audience will be impressed.

"I can't wait till it starts," the 11-year-old said. "I think it'll be amazing."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad