Leonard Elementary School students practice all year for a big night of acting, dancing, singing, costumes and showing off what they’ve learned to family and friends during their yearly play through the Leonard Elementary Theater Club.
Though the group’s production for this school year, “The Jungle Book,” is still pretty far off, the kids are already geared up to put on a great show. In years past, they have performed theatrical productions of “The Lion King” and “The Wizard of Oz.”
“We’re expecting to have between 60 and 75 kids (in the club this year),” said Lauren LaCascio, a parent volunteer and PTO member who runs the club while presenting to the Oxford Board of Education at its Sept. 25 meeting. “It’s a really great program that we have here.”
LaCascio noted to the board that Leonard is one of few elementary schools in the nation that offers a theater club to its students, and she has seen from experience how much the young kids gain from working on a production all year. According to her, the students learn about teamwork, leadership, listening, bravery and building relationships throughout the making of a production.
“96 percent of elementary schools do not offer theater to their students,” she said. “So you can see that we’re not only unique in this district, (but) we’re unique nationally.”
LaCascio brought two of her theater-loving students with her to share what they’ve learned through the club. Fifth-grade student Eva Rayner and fourth-grade student Emerson Shelton presented alongside LaCascio to share their thoughts and reminisce about good times had in former shows.
“In theater club, no one job is more important than the others,” Shelton said. “We learn to build relationships and trust each other.”
LaCascio invited the current board members and the potential new board members who were in the audience to the club’s spring production, which prompted Trustee Jenny Guthrie to later note that she had been inspired by the club and looks forward to seeing what it will do next.
“I want to tell you that you’ve inspired me to take your idea and the benefits that theater club offers back to the employees at my work (StayWell), and that’s like 60,000 employees,” Guthrie said. “I want to let them know that they have an opportunity to learn some things from each other in some kind of a theater activity, because I think that’s really neat.”
Other board members agreed that they’ll be in attendance to the club’s presentation of “The Jungle Book,” which will take place at Oxford High School on Feb. 9, 2019.
“I love going to the high school productions, and I didn’t even know about this,” Trustee Mark Stepek said. “So I’ll definitely be going to this.”