In seventh grade I created an Alka-Seltzer commercial parody that enjoyed success thanks to a whoopee-cushion punch line. The faith and freedom that Mr. Hesse (my amazing drama teacher) granted me is the same I present to young adults today. They deserve nothing less since middle school students, being the perfect age, combine mature critical thinking skills layered into a young mind that wants to try everything.
Panther Playhouse is a student theatre company at Kirkland Middle School where the participants have ownership of every production. We start the school year welcoming new students with a musical or play performed on the Lake Washington High School stage. In the spring they gain control of additional production elements while tackling an original adaptation of a Shakespeare play performed in the Kirkland Middle School commons.
We want our latent thespians to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits by introducing them to every aspect of creating a professional stage performance that there is time to explore. Since we regularly extend beyond our comfort zone we know mistakes will be made, but we also know this is the best way for students to learn and make the performance their own.
Every Kirkland Middle School student that wishes to participate is welcomed onto the stage, regardless of financial situation. The educational benefits of performance art extend into our audience so we permit students from all LWSD schools to attend our Shakespeare performances for free.
The time between auditions and opening night is over in just six weeks. Parents are involved throughout by chaperoning rehearsals and serving on a committee. We provide instructions and guidance so they do not need previous experience but the help of student family members is the bedrock of our success for every production.
At the end of every school year I tear up as another class moves on to high school. Fortunately, there is always another amazing group waiting to take their place and I hope that includes a middle school student from your family.
If you or the younger version of you has any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.