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There’s “A Place for Us” at Roycemore

Community News Friday, 15 Dec 2023

This December, over fifty members of the Roycemore School community came together to create a wholly unique piece of theater.

When searching for a traditional musical for their Upper and Middle School Musical Theatre classes to perform, co-directors Marie Cinquemanni-Thomas and Lizanne Wilson found themselves at a loss. There was no show out there that could showcase the talents of our Upper School students, while also giving our Middle Schoolers who had expressed interest in performing their moment in the spotlight. Rather than giving up, they decided to get inventive, imagining a musical revue where each song was carefully selected to appropriately challenge the performer, while also celebrating their talents. Thus, Roycemore’s fall production, “A Place For Us: An American Musical Theatre Revue” was born.

Over the course of the first semester, Ms. CT and Ms. Wilson worked with their students to select, rehearse, stage, and sharpen each song. Students were given the opportunity to sing songs about subjects that matter to them, like 11th-grader Isabella G, who chose “You Don’t Know This Man” from the musical Parade. The song is sung from the perspective of a wife defending her husband, wrongly accused and jailed for a horrible crime, to a group of reporters clamoring for gossip or a sound bite. Isabella’s powerful performance was only elevated by her personal connection to the song and her real-life belief in justice and equity. Students’ choices eventually revealed that there was a clear throughline connecting each song: belonging.

Belonging became the central theme of the revue, inspiring every song and staging choice and even determining the title, “A Place for Us,” which was taken from the Leonard Bernstein song of the same name. Each student who participated in the rehearsal and performance process also found their own sense of belonging as part of an ensemble of creatives working together towards a common goal. The work behind the scenes elevated the stories being told on stage.

Once rehearsals were underway, it was time to imagine the world of the play. Here, Ms. CT and Ms. Wilson turned to Gina Lorenz, Roycemore’s Lower and Middle School Art teacher. Ms. Lorenz’s 6th grade art class studied the work of Marc Chagall, a Jewish painter who fled Nazi-occupied France and was forced to leave much of his work behind. After settling in America, Chagall created a stained-glass art piece, the “America Windows.” This work explores belonging and provided the perfect jumping-off point for our 6th-graders, who created a Chagall-inspired backdrop incorporating images from the songs. This interdisciplinary collaboration between the performing and visual arts departments is just another example of how closely intertwined the behind-the-scenes work was with the themes of the performance.

Like a revue, Roycemore can sometimes seem like a lot of disparate things. After all, we have students ranging from ages 3 all the way to 18 spread across four divisions, each with different worries, hopes, and goals. However, when we find the things that tie us together - our own sense of belonging - the once-separate aspects of our days begin to look more and more familiar. Thank you to the wonderful cast and crew of “A Place for Us” for reminding us what belonging truly looks like at Roycemore.

Take a look at the program for “A Place for Us: An American Musical Theatre Review” here.

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