Getting a fright months before Halloween was an exercise in theater and presentation for students at Lake Cormorant Elementary School just before school let out for the summer.
But the exercise was more about teaching tolerance for others who might look differently than themselves, according to Jennifer Bruce, second grade teacher at Lake Cormorant Elementary School.
In a day and age when people who hold different views or have physical appearances or ethnic identities that differ from our own are demonized and ostracized, the play "We Are Monsters" by Beat Press offers an opportunity to have some fun and contemplate serious moral questions.
"It's about how to get along with others who are different but matter to us as human beings regardless of what someone might look like," Bruce said. "The premise is to promote healing and harmony. It's also good for kids to be exposed to extracurricular activities like theater."
Bruce said students began practicing for the play in January and learned how to act and sing in an ensemble group.
"We taught them how to project their voice and get along with one another," Bruce said.
Bruce added that Hernando High School's theater department lent the Lake Cormorant students some of their props in order to stage their big production, just before school ended for the summer.
According to Bruce, students loved getting dressed up as little goblins and monsters. The play aims to teach a more fundamental lesson.
"It's about humans who want to go into the monster world," Bruce said. "The monsters don't like human beings because they think they are ugly and scary. One human gets lost in the monster world. She learns that monsters are just like them. In the end they learn to get along and be friends."
Students at Lake Cormorant put their own special touches on the performance.
"The kids in the play choreographed their own dances," Bruce said, adding that Diane Fraccastoro, another second grade teacher, collaborated on the production, as did Sharon Minks. "Most of the kids have no theater background."
One child with special needs, Aiden Foster, 8, sings a part.
"That's how he found his voice," said Aiden's mom. "He had no language for the longest time but could memorize songs."
Stephanie Visiletti, another parent, is the mother of Sophia Visiletti, who played a vampire in the production.
"For her, it was the excitement to get there and put on a play," the elder Visiletti said. "She enjoyed playing a monster. They really enjoy the role playing."
Heather Buckley's son Kyler also plays a vampire. "I think it's great that he gets to play and act, so when he got the role, he jumped in."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.