Steven Sondheim’s ability to probe into the human condition was beautifully brought to life by 24 Rodeph Sholom middle school students who shared their talents with our community on Thursday. Into the Woods Jr, like many Sondheim productions, is difficult to master at any age due to its musical complexity, dissonance between melody and accompaniment, and multiple time signatures and rhythms. However, these students rose to the challenge and, with a focus on the depth of their characters, took us on a journey of self-discovery that also resonated with our school values of Community (Kehilah) and Responsibility (Achrayhut).
Per Director Todd Loyd, Into the Woods Jr. is a 60-minute abridged version of Act 1. The characters are hopeful, flawed, and all wandering in the woods wishing to find their way home. At some point, like these characters, we will all take risks in our personal lives to accomplish our goals…we will take our own journey into the woods. And while that journey may feel lonely, or even scary, Into the Woods reminds us what it means to be a part of the collective and the power of community.
After only moments into the show, it became clear that this production was something special. As a student-driven process, everything was “brought to life by the hard work and creativity of talented and passionate students” according to Loyd, who, along with Production Coordinator Bonnie Hilton, and several other dedicated faculty and staff members, guided the students through the process making it meaningful, not only for the audience but also for each other. The Middle School Drama Program is an after-school program that is in its 4th year with Mr. Loyd at the helm. It provides students with performance opportunities, builds confidence and self-esteem, and teaches the value of teamwork and personal responsibility. The program also strives to provide an outlet for students to reach success outside of an academic setting. It culminates in a performance for students during the school day and a performance in the evening for family and friends.
An inspiring moment for the students was watching a personalized video message during a rehearsal from legendary actress Patina Miller (the witch in the recent Broadway revival of Into The Woods), who wished them luck.
This production was particularly meaningful to Director Loyd who knew Stephen Sondheim and corresponded with him during his years as an Artistic Director. “I feel passionate about theater and its ability to teach life lessons and build confidence. These students have worked extremely hard on this production. I am very proud of their efforts and the strong bonds and new friendships they formed during rehearsals–they have a lot to offer. They are creative, committed, funny, and talented…Stephen quietly nurtured generations of young theater makers, myself included. I’m proud to celebrate his work with [this] production.”
The middle school musical and other wonderful traditions at Rodeph Sholom School are supported through the Annual Fund, our most vital resource for special programming.
Please enjoy this beautiful gallery of photos taken by Paolo Martinez Fiterre from Coverd Photography.