A group of acting students at St. Mary’s Catholic School don’t expect fame, but their efforts have already brought another benefit.
Pretending to be unreal people gives them more confidence around the real ones.
“I get pretty nervous,” said student Shane Hartman, set to play Brer Rabbit in “Livin’ de Life,” a one-act play premiering 7 p.m. April 4 at State Theater. “But once you get out there you calm down and you’re okay, and then you just enjoy yourself.”
The upcoming show — a comedy that pits the rabbit against foes Brer Fox and Brer Bear — isn’t the first acting experience for the students, who do this as an extracurricular activity. For some of them, it’s the latest in a string. Carson Markle, who plays two characters including the fox, is being directed by mother Sonia and has a local theater history that goes back a decade.
He said he doesn’t plan to pursue acting professionally and enjoys some roles more than others, but does have one tip for anyone else considering the craft, and it comes down to certainty.
“Don’t panic on stage,” he said. “Just stay in your character and you should be good.”
Student Suzanne Schmitz plays Brer Bear and was straightforward about how acting brought her out of her shell.
“My character is a bear, really dumb and fat,” she said. “I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it a few years ago. But after doing a couple plays, it made me more comfortable on stage. It’s easier being stupid and not getting too embarrassed.”
The show also will be part of a one-act play competition set for April 9 at Liberty Christian School. Positive public feedback is great, though principal Karen Lee, talking to the class, admitted none of them have illusions of future stardom.
“Are any of you going to be an Academy Award winner? Probably not,” she said to them. “But what has it gained for you? The self-confidence of being able to stand in front of people.”
Teacher Sonja Swirczynski said even if these kids don’t pursue acting in high school and beyond, the current experience has had its positive effects. She cited Schmitz, who, as a younger sixth-grader, having never acted, would have still been too shy to be vocal in class.
Something fixed that and it may have been the theater.
“That’s our hope, that we’ve given them a feeling of what it’s like,” Swirczynski said. “I’ve seen such a change in the students who do this. They become more sure of themselves.”
Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children. For more information, call 940-668-7898.