Hawlemont third-graders teach a local history lesson in ‘Your Town: The Musical’

  • Hawlemont Regional Elementary School third-graders perform with Piti Theatre Co. Artistic Director Jonathan Mirin, second from left, for their peers and teachers. STAFF PHOTO/ANITA FRITZ

  • Hawlemont Regional Elementary School third-graders perform for the entire school, teaching their peers a little about the history of member towns. STAFF PHOTO/ANITA FRITZ

  • Hawlemont Regional Elementary School third-graders perform for the entire school, teaching their peers a little about the history of member towns. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/17/2020 9:08:08 PM

CHARLEMONT — Hawlemont Regional Elementary School third-graders gave their peers, teachers and parents a glimpse into member towns’ pasts through song, dance and dialogue.

Piti Theatre Co. Artistic Director Jonathan Mirin worked with the two third-grade classes for 11 weeks to prepare them for last week’s performance of “Your Town: The Musical,” and with confidence, they took the stage in the gymnasium to show everyone what they had learned.

“I really liked saying my line in the school scene,” 8-year-old third-grader Jacob Taylor said.

“It was really exciting,” Carter Gosselin, 8, said. “I enjoyed singing the song about Avery’s store.”

Mirin directed the students, but also performed with them, singing songs about Robert Strong Woodward’s studio in Heath and Avery’s General Store in Charlemont, all original lyrics and music. Mirin wrote the lyrics and script, while Carrie Ferguson, who played piano and provided sound effects for the performance, wrote the music. The choreography was done by Piti’s Godelieve Richard.

The young actors used props, like a slate, top hat, fossil, rock, postcard, calendar and glasses that all came from a magical chest, each providing a launching pad for a new lesson.

They sang “good-bye” to their 1800s one-room schoolhouse, of which there were nine in that area at one time, and in the end, learned — and taught — that everyone should “see the other person’s point of view,” even if they don’t agree.

Mirin said the first time Piti Theatre Co. did something like this was at Colrain Central School in 2012.

“We got a request from the third-grade teachers at Hawlemont to do something similar,” he said. “They wanted to do a performance that tied in with their local history curriculum.”

Mirin said he and others involved did some research, and another installment of “Your Town: The Musical” was born at Hawlemont, where students from Charlemont, Hawley and Heath attend.

“It’s a wonderful way to teach everyone a little about their town that maybe they didn’t know,” he said.

Mirin said the performance was funded by a grant from Club Passim, the Charlemont and Hawley cultural councils and the Massachusetts Cultural Council Stars Residencies program.

“We are incredibly grateful for the hard work and dedication by our students, staff and the Piti Theatre Co.,” said Hawlemont Principal Lindsay Rodriguez. “Opportunities like this help our students learn about the community in a fun and creative way. The creative arts, and plays like this, help to build confidence in our students. I want to extend my sincerest appreciation to everyone who helped support this program with their time, commitment and donations.”

“We were given 11 visits, so 10 of them were rehearsals and the final was the performance,” Mirin said. “We’re headed to do a weather program in Westfield after this, and we’re at Warwick Community School’s after-school program helping run its Improv Club, which will be doing a public performance on Tuesday.”

Mirin said what Piti Theatre Co. is doing in local schools gives students and teachers a different experience of themselves while building teamwork and emotional and social intelligence.

“Kids and adults struggle in all sorts of ways,” he said. “This positive experience builds confidence and lets them express themselves in an artistic way in front of an audience. That’s empowering.”

For more about Piti and its projects and events, visit: ptco.org.

Reach Anita Fritz at
413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@recorder.com.


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