Middle school students led courageously through their outstanding performance of Disney’s Moana, Jr.
From the first rehearsal to opening night, seventh and eighth graders stepped into roles that required courage and leadership. The middle school cast encouraged their friends behind the scenes, participated in crew, sang with the chorus and dealt with unexpected challenges, everyone had an important part to play.
Music Director Liza Brown said she enjoyed seeing students “grow in confidence. They learned the importance of hard work, focus and attention to detail.” Director Caroline Patterson ‘08 agreed, saying she loved “catching glimpses of their abilities and challenging them to stretch and grow! So many of the actors began this season with hesitancy, only to fully devote themselves to their roles.”
Tessa Garcia ‘26, who played Moana, said, “Having to perform in front of hundreds of people was a special but challenging opportunity. The musical directors and my teachers helped me develop the skills and courage needed to perform in front of an audience and express the leadership qualities of Moana.”
Vivian Wise ‘26 had a unique moment of courageous confidence when she faced an unexpected challenge. She recalls one of her favorite memories was “during the Saturday morning performance the music didn’t start, so I had to improvise lines with my character!” Mrs. Patterson complimented how Vivian “held her ground during a technical difficulty, remaining in character and leading until the issue was resolved.”
Production Assistant Emma Prestage ‘15 said, “The middle school theatre experience pushes students to become the best versions of themselves, teaching them accountability and responsibility.”
When lead cast members set examples of leading courageously with a service-oriented work ethic, it caused other cast members to step up to the plate, according to the directors. Crew also served a huge purpose in making Moana, Jr. come to life. Ethan Chan ‘26 played audio during rehearsal and the show. “He kept the show going,” praised Ms. Prestage.
Eighth grader Josh Rhames stepped up when they needed a stage crew member, giving up his roles in the cast to serve in a different way. Caroline Carl ‘27 and the ocean girls choreographed many of the dances and “were willing to edit up until the final rehearsal,” explained Mrs. Patterson. “I’ve already asked them to choreograph future productions!”
Perhaps most inspiring was witnessing the cast and crew encouraging one another every step of the way. By the end, I saw every single cast member encouraging one another, stepping into their role and having fun! This was also a great opportunity for eighth graders to come alongside seventh graders,” said Ms. Prestage.
Sarah Bezemek ‘26 shared, “I practiced leading courageously by encouraging others before and after they performed and singing during chorus parts.” Vivian Wise said she liked to help her peers “get into character.”
The middle schoolers were also paired with an upper school theatre student during a tech week lunch. “This was a wonderful way to prepare them for what is ahead,” said Mrs. Brown. As upper school students invest in middle school, the SBS difference is evident; mentorship is built right in.
Senior Jack Prothro shared, “It was a joy and pleasure to spend time with the middle school cast of Moana Jr. because I remember being in middle school and putting in that hard work! It was extremely fun to sit down and have lunch with the cast and share how much theatre has caused me to grow since I was their age.” Middle schoolers were beaming as they shared lunch with the experienced upper school theatre students and soaked up their advice.
Mrs. Patterson gave the perfect conclusion when she said, “These students can truly do anything if they continue to grow in their talents and work together!”