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Southland Students Explore History through Music

Apr 08, 2016 09:31AM ● Published by Tori La Rue

By Tori La Rue | tori@mycityjournals.com

South Valley - The Oquirrh Hills Middle School auditorium filled with spectators as young actors and actresses from Southland Elementary took the stage to perform “The Adventures of Lewis and Clark,” a musical journey about the famous exploring duo from American history. 

“Oh my goodness. It was fantastic,” Patrice Johnson, superintendent for Jordan School District, said about the performance. “The music was superb, the acting was even better, and you would never know that these were elementary school students.”  

The play tells the story of a schoolgirl, played by Juniper Cocanour, who receives an unexpected visit from Lewis, played by Carter Larson, and Clark, played by Dallin Curtis, while she’s trying to write a report about them. Lewis and Clark proceed to tell her their journey through dance and song, bringing in the help of a 30-person choir to help illustrate their tale. 

With cameo appearances from Sacajawea, played by Sydney Horner, the crew’s guide dog, played by Matthew Dickey, and others, the exploration is told from multiple angles. 

The cast, composed of more than 60 members, rehearsed the musical for three hours a week starting in November, leading up to their performances on March 2 and 3, according to Director Jennifer Preece. 

“Lewis and Clark” was Southland’s fourth musical production. The school typically performs a musical every other year and is put on by the students and parent and community volunteers. The directors choose their plays based on academic merit, Preece said.

“You’re never going to see us do ‘Wizard of Oz’ or ‘Beauty and the Beast,’” she said. “We always want to do a play that’s educational — one where the kids are learning.”

Rebekah Sap, 11, said she learned about Lewis and Clark’s journey within the musical but said she wanted to learn more about them, so she researched them on her own time. 

“I love musicals, and I love that I got knowledge out of it. It’s so fun,” she said while giggling and jumping up and down. 

Dallin said learning history was one of his favorite parts of playing Clark in the play. He said it helps history come alive outside of the classroom.

“I also liked to learn the silly lines and do the dances,” Dallin said. 

Dallin had one of the most dance-intensive roles. During the performance, Dallin could be seen doing heel-clicks, power poses and a back-handspring on stage.

Carter, 12, said he made new friends playing Lewis in the play, and learned how to put up with hard times and good times because the practices weren’t always easy. Being a lead in the musical helped him to learn that “no dream is too big for you if you go for it,” he said.

Mary Jackson initiated the first musical back in 2008. She said she had fond memories of being in musicals while she was in elementary school, and she wanted her children, who attended Southland Elementary, to have the same opportunity. Sharon Kartchner, who was experienced in the music and theater realm, joined Jackson’s team, and the two continued to put on a show every other year. Preece joined their team in 2011.

Kartchner continues to donate her time to the school musical, even though her own children graduated from Southland a few years ago, Preece said. 

 “She puts in hundreds of hours preparing for and directing these musicals without any compensation,” Preece said about Kartchner. “She still has a busy life and a family and she makes that a priority. It’s amazing.”

Kartchner, Preece and Jackson plan to continue putting on plays every other year with the upper-grade students at Southland. Preece said they plan to rotate between the three plays that they’ve done in the past: “Dig It,” “Quest for the Stars and Stripes” and “Lewis and Clark.”  “Dig It” is a journey through ancient civilizations and “Quest for the Stars and Stripes” is an original play about the formation of the United States. 

Kenny Bingham, third grader, said he loved being in the chorus of “Lewis and Clark” and that he’s excited for the next musical.

“I’m so happy that I can be in ‘Dig It’ soon and keep going with acting,” he said

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