P.S. 114 Jumps Back into Theater


With brand new funds and an all new cast and crew, P.S/M.S 114, along with the Rockaway Artists Alliance (RAA)  are putting on a production of Annie Jr. with Drama Club students from grades four to eight, with hopes of having the show sometime in June.

The show, the first of its kind for P.S. 114 in quite some time, came out of city council discretionary funding and the school’s desire to revitalize its drama program. It is helmed by first-time director James Dalid, who has used his longtime theater background to help educate and get kids interested in the theatrical arts. “I want to let them get a taste of being up on stage,” he said. Joining Dalid is Mia Melchiorri and Steven Wagner, both members of the Rockaway Theatre Company and RAA, who work as choreographer and music director for the show respectively.

Most of the program’s details were carried over from other summer and after-school programs Dalid and others have done at RAA, but that doesn't take away all of the moving parts that go into putting on a kid’s production. “It’s a process,” Dalid said. Originally, it just started out as exercises and activities, but this year they decided to go for it and put on a full-fledged production.

At one of the program’s after-school rehearsals, the cast made up of 114 students, those both experienced in theater and those just starting out, performed three trademark songs from the 1977 musical: “Hard Knock Life,” “Easy Street,” and “NYC.” “It’s a really classic show,” Dalid said. The kids are naturally an excitable bunch, and their enthusiasm for the show shines even during rehearsals. “A lot of the time they are really excited about what they are doing,” Melchiorri said. Although the perpetual excitement and little kid energy can occasionally lead to problems focusing, the crew gets to enjoy watching the kids improve as time goes on as they learn the life lessons that come with participating in theater. “It’s a team effort,” says Wagner. “You can see the older and or more experienced kids helping out the kids who don’t necessarily know as much.”

Although, the crew admits the show is still a work in progress, they are still several weeks away from putting on the big performance. However, the rehearsals are only two days a week and some of those days are taken away because of vacations, so they do everything they can to make sure the kids are ready for the show as they work to improve the songs and dance choreography. “You have to get through as much as you can,” Wagner said. One of the ways the crew helps to keep the kids working and improving is through a daily award called the “Pizza Award,” an honor borrowed from the children's theater workshop at the Rockaway Theatre Company. The “Pizza Award” is used as the theater equivalent of the game ball, where the kids who have put the most work into improving as a performer and as a member of the team are rewarded at the end of that rehearsal day. For this rehearsal, Wagner gave his to a girl who had trouble with a part in the previous week, but showed that she had practiced and improved on it. 

There is no specific date for the production of Annie Jr., while they work it out with the school. In the meantime, the kids will continue to learn all the choreography, songs, and lines to make the show as good as it can be.