Students portray Colrain’s history in annual production

  • Students in Colrain Central School perform a historical play put on by Piti Theatre Company at the school on Friday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Students at Colrain Central School ride the trolley to Shelburne Falls in this locally flavored historical play put on by Piti Theatre Company and Jonathan Mirin, at right, at the school on Friday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Students at Colrain Central School perform a historical play put on by Piti Theatre Company on Friday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Students at Colrain Central School work a loom as part of a locally flavored historical play put on by Piti Theatre Company, including Jonathan Mirin, at left, at the school on Friday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/20/2019 5:41:44 PM

COLRAIN — Third-grader Abbygail Lenois has been looking forward to performing in Colrain Central School’s annual production since she was 3. After watching her older siblings and classmates perform in the play, offered to third- and sometimes fourth-graders, she was eager to try out acting for herself.

“I’ve been waiting because I knew that everybody who was in third grade, every year they would get to do a play,” Abbygail said.

On Friday, Abbygail finally made it to the stage, performing the original production “Olde Coleraine,” a play about the history of the town, alongside about 35 enthusiastic third- and fourth-graders.

Local company Piti Theatre managed the production, holding 10 rehearsals over three weeks. Written by founder Jonathan Mirin with original music by Carrie Ferguson, the play portrays a history of Colrain that includes beekeeping, single-room schoolhouses, after school mill work and the Shelburne Falls trolley. Among the play’s new music was “North River,” a song about how children would spend their time by the river after school and work.

“It’s been a long winter, down in Adamsville, and it’s been a long winter, out in Lyonsville,” Ferguson sang. “But now we’re planting seeds and the air is still, down by the river, surrounded by hills. Let’s go fishing!”

The school gymnasium buzzed with conversation and laughter as students watched their classmates sing, dance and act, pretending to be local children from a century ago. The buoyant mood wasn’t only created by students; Colrain Central’s teachers offered kindness and encouragement to their colleague, third-grade teacher Suzanne Taylor, who has organized the annual production since she conceived it seven years ago.

After the play wrapped up, students offered a chorus of enthusiastic reflections on their performances, many admitting they were worried beforehand but felt happy with the results.

“I was a little nervous. There was a lot of people back there,” Jaida Bache said.

Abigail Dobias, also in third grade, agreed with her classmate about pre-play jitters.

“I was nervous because I thought I was going to mess up, but at the end I was kind of happy that I didn’t mess up,” Abigail said.

Claire Johnston said she enjoyed pretending to be a kid from the “olden days.” While this was her first-ever play, she thought it went well.

“It was fun but it was a little scary,” Claire said. “I think it went pretty good. I said the right words, too.”

Logan Kingsley said the “stage fright” she felt disappeared when the play began.

“At the end of the play, I felt really happy,” Logan said.

Cole Bassett said he was interested to learn about the history of Colrain while practicing the play, including its former mills and the Shelburne Falls trolley.

“I actually never knew there was a trolley,” Cole said.

Taylor, who oversaw the play, was equally happy with her students’ efforts, saying many children realized a talent for drama while preparing for the play. And while the acting process can be “messy,” Taylor said it gives students an opportunity to explore performance and “just shine.”

“It’s very uncomfortable as a classroom teacher because it’s very loose. You just kind of have to trust the creative process,” Taylor said. “When it comes time to do the performance, they pull off what you saw today.”

Reach Grace Bird at or 413-772-0261, ext. 280.

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