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Jefferson Academy student actors review 20th century triumphs
Lindsey Nilsen, left, demonstrates how the first microwave worked during Thursday’s "Jefferson Academy Diner: A 20th Century Review." - photo by BRANDEE A. THOMAS

Lindsey Nilsen knows more about the microwave than the average adult, and she’s only 11.

"The first microwave weighed 750 pounds, was 5-and-a-half-feet tall and cost $5,000," said Nilsen, a Jefferson Academy fifth-grader.

No, she isn’t an electronics whiz kid. Instead, she’s a thespian with the Jefferson Academy Players.

About 60 Jefferson Academy student-actors participated in Thursday’s production "Jefferson Academy Diner: A 20th Century Review." The production was split into six different vignettes, with each focusing on a different 20th century achievement.

The play was set in a diner and featured patrons discussing various inventions and achievements, including the development of the microwave, television and personal computer.

The production was written and produced by the school’s staff.

"This is our first production, but I hope it’s the first of many," said Marion Stem, Jefferson Academy media specialist. "We chose to do this production because we wanted to give our students exposure to the dramatic arts."

Besides getting exposure to the arts, the students also learned a little history along the way.

"I learned that Alan B. Shepard Jr. was the first (American) to fly to outer space," said Tanner Thurmond, a Jefferson Academy fifth-grader and Jefferson Academy Player member.

"He was born in New Hampshire and was 37 years old when he first traveled to outer space."

For this to be their first production, the students received a grand introduction to theater. Instead of having their performance at their school, the Jefferson Academy Players were able to showcase their production at the state-of-the-art William Duncan Martin Performing Arts Center on the Jefferson High School campus.

"The students have done very well with learning their lines," Stem said. "Our only concern for the night was if they would get nervous when they saw the crowd and not speak up."

Getting nervous would be easy when there are several hundred pairs of eyes staring up at you from the audience. To help ward off a bad case of the nerves, 9-year-old Hannah Gerbig developed a strategy for getting through her scenes.

"I have a lot of friends in my vignette, so I just pretend like we’re having a casual conversation," said the fourth-grade student. "That helps me to stay calm."

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