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Students learn life lessons through theater during summer
Gainesville High senior Delaney Benson leads a group of youngsters Wednesday, June 6, 2018 as they rehearse a musical titled “Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical” at the Pam Ware Performing Arts Center. The group has to get their program perfected in two weeks as part of the Pam Ware Summer Community Theatre workshop presented by Gainesville Parks & Recreation. - photo by Scott Rogers

This summer, students will get together for the first time to brush up on their scripts, rehearse and perform a musical titled “Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical” in a matter of two weeks as part of the Pam Ware Summer Community Theatre workshop presented by Gainesville Parks & Recreation.

Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical

When: 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. June 13 and 14

Where: Pam Ware Performing Arts Center, 830 Century Place, Gainesville

How much: Adults $10, children and seniors $5

More info: www.gainesville.org/community-theatre


Performances are set for 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on June 13 and 14 at the Pam Ware Performing Arts Center on the Gainesville High School campus. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and seniors. 

The musical is about a girl who moves to a new town and doesn’t quite fit in. She’s picked on and left out, but is befriended by one person who helps others see it doesn’t matter if someone is different, they should be treated equally.

“I like this play the most because it tells you there’s no difference in people —  no matter the pattern of their skin or what they look like,” said Vince Kiesel, 12, a rising seventh-grader at Gainesville Middle School who plays Sky Square. “It gets across a good message.”

Everything the students, ranging from third through eighth grades, learn comes in the first four days of the workshop. The following week, they rehearse and perform four shows.

Learning a play in little time may seem challenging, but Kiesel said “it’s not really difficult.” They get their scripts and songs in January, so they’re able to memorize everything by the time practice and rehearsal roll around.

Kiesel has been taking part in the workshop since he was in third grade. He used to be part of the ensemble, but he’s been able to work his way up to a leading role. Kiesel’s mother, Kim, said the program, and theater in general, has changed him.

“It’s really helped his confidence and public speaking,” Kim Kiesel said. “He doesn’t shy away from speaking with adults, and I honestly believe it’s from all of this theater experience, I really do. So as a parent, it has been tremendous for our house.”

Isabella Garrish, 14, a rising ninth-grader at Gainesville High who plays Ms. Square, said she likes being in front of an audience. She said she knew she wanted to perform since she was young, singing every song that came on the radio.

“I’ve always had a love for singing and performing,” Garrish said. “My mom told me in third grade that there was this opportunity, and I went and tried out. After I did, I loved it.”

The summer workshop helps students grow accustomed to theater and encourages them to learn new things during a time of year when students tend to take time off from learning. 

Pam Ware, the director of theater at Gainesville High, who directs the summer workshop, said she tries to make it fun while still teaching skills the students can carry with them.

“We want it to be fun, and we want them to learn something from it,” Ware said. “We want them to learn about developing a character, of course, and making their dialogue sound like real conversation rather than like memorized lines.”

Even though it’s just a week of learning and rehearsing, Ware doesn’t take it easy on the students who come. She tries to teach them the same way she teaches her high school students.

“As I always say to my students, you have got to always perform like half of your audience is visually impaired, so it’s what they hear,” Ware said. “The other half of the audience is deaf, so it’s what they see. So if you put the two of those together, you’ve created reality.”


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