The Return of the Lower School Play

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The Lower School play is based on the book “Just So Stories” by Rudyard Kipling. The show will be directed by Nicole Harris, stage managed by Rose Gil ‘18 and musically directed by Lilias Kim ‘19. Ms. Harris first started working at Groton through the dance program with her non-profit Monkey House. She joined the Theater department by choreographing and co-directing The Wiz. Her exceptional work led to her solo directing last winter’s production, Boxes. Like Boxes, the Lower School play will be produced in the Black Box and in cabaret style, but, save those similarities, the shows will be very different. Rose Gil ‘18, who is stage managing the show, explains that “Boxes tackled intersectionality, while this show focuses mainly on development and is generally more fun and lighthearted.” Ms. Harris says, “Our goal is to create a piece of theatre that is family-friendly while still being interesting.”  

Originally, “Just So Stories” were bedtime stories for Kipling’s daughter. However, Ms. Harris says that these tales offer far more depth than that. She says that although the stories “may look on the surface like a bunch of kids’ stories, they also deal with the realization of how your actions impact others, the power everyone has to make a difference, and what it means to be so caught up in your own every day that you ignore the bigger problems in the world around you.” Right now, fifteen students from forms second through fourth are signed up for the play. Rebeccah Lipson ‘20, who is already co-stage managing Cabaret, says, “I didn’t think I was going to go at first, but I’m glad I did.”

The play works similarly to the Lower School play of ages past in that rehearsal times are non-standard in order to allow more students to participate. The schedule allows Lower Schoolers to get a foot in the theater scene without any huge commitments. Students can either participate solely on the show or in addition to their afternoon activity. Rose says, “It’s for students who don’t want to sacrifice theater over their current sport or vice versa.” Nicole says, “People whose schedules only allow for them to come to one or two rehearsals a week will still be able to participate, just perhaps in a smaller number of stories.” Historically, the Lower School play was a mainstay at Groton. These productions, held in what is now Gammons, were run by faculty rather than the drama department. According to former English teacher Elson Harmon, who ran the drama department from 1986 to 2001, the Lower School play was a way to “fill a gap for the kids” because Lower Schoolers were not allowed to be involved in any official dramatic performance. Also, interestingly, productions used to only be put on in the winter. Mr. Harmon says Groton wasn’t “anti-drama,” but rather there “wasn’t much interest in cultivating a program”  due to the mentality that everyone needed to get out and exercise.

That being said, Mr. Harmon says the Lower School play was always “successful because kids threw themselves into it.” Students only met Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons, resulting in a production that was always a labor of love and “tended to move towards what the current groups of kids were interested in.” The beauty of the play was that it encouraged students to be academics, athletes, and actors.

Hopefully, this production marks the revitalization of a treasured tradition.