"Let's do that again," Kathy Deepe said to a group of youngsters, who were playing more than rehearsing the play. The students, mostly fourth- and fifth-graders, do not leave the stage until they get it right.
"The audience has to hear you, and they want to see you smile," Deepe said to her young thespians.
For six weeks, Hayden School District students have been learning, practicing and memorizing lines for "James and the Giant Peach." Practices began with one-hour sessions four nights a week. As the weeks went by, practices got more intense. By the week of the play, students, who range from third-graders to high school seniors, were rehearsing about two hours every weeknight.
"It takes up a lot of your time, but it's a whole lot of fun," said fifth-grader Lanette Laman, who plays several small roles as a cloud, a shark and a crowd member.
Play director Kathy Deepe has put on a play within her third-grade classroom for about 10 years, but said this is her first major production.
"I've always had a passion to do a play," Deepe said. "They always keep the kids motivated, and so many parents have said I should do something big."
Deepe said she chose "James and the Giant Peach" because of its appeal to children and its dialogue, which is entertaining to both children and adults.
The story begins when young James Henry Trotter, played by Errol Ormesher, loses his parents in an unlikely rhinoceros accident. He must then live with his two wicked aunts, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, played by Melissa Bowden and Kim Taylor, respectively.
Living with them, he becomes sad and lonely, until one day when an old man, played by Cassidy Bush, gives James a bag of magic that is supposed to relieve him of his misery.
"Marvelous things will start happening to you, and you will never be miserable again in your life," the man tells James.
When James accidentally spills the magic substance on his aunts' withered peach tree, one peach grows to a huge size, and James climbs inside to a new world.
In the new world, James meets many characters, including Grasshopper, Earthworm, Spider and Centipede, all of whom sing and have comical lines.
Fifth-grader Krista Tomke plays the role of Spider in Hayden's rendition of the story. She promised that she and her classmates will make the play funny, exciting and dramatic, because they "put a lot of hard work into it."
Fifth-grader Anna Brown, who plays the same roles as Laman, said her favorite part is seeing James' two aunts get run over by the giant peach when it falls off the tree.
Fourth-grader Nick Williams also likes talking about the funny parts of the play, especially the parts when he is with his friend (in life and the play) Casey Zabel. The two boys play the parts of second and first officers. Thinking of the long scene, Williams said he couldn't help feeling somewhat nervous.
Deepe said having older students acting with the younger students will help the play move smoothly and so many moments of comic relief will erase any stomach butterflies.
Hayden High School students Chelsea Smith and Andrea Deepe narrate the story with British accents and add their own humorous commentary.
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