PUBLISHED: 10:34 AM on Tuesday, October 17, 2006
A bilingual play
Juneau Community Charter School students perform 'The Great Jugarito'

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Keely Ewing, standing, as the clock keeper points out the site of the giant as other second- and third-graders Kelson Rounds McPherson, Zane Boyer, Ryan Moritz and Jenae Kesey react in the scene from "The Great Jugarito," which was presented by the Juneau Community Charter School on Friday, Oct. 13.
A village, a giant and a toymaker make for an interesting tale in "The Great Jugarito," which was presented by students of Juneau Community Charter School on Friday, Oct. 13. Students from kindergarten through sixth grade performed the Latin American Musical Folk Tale, as part of the Artists in Schools program. The play was written and directed by Ryan Conarro as an adaptation from the book "The Great Quillow" by James Thurber.

The story is set in a mountain town in central Mexico on its feast day. Unfortunately, the village is being terrorized by "El Gigante," a giant with a list of demands.

If those demands are not met, the tiny village is in danger of meeting its demise. The town is just about out of hope, when the town's local Toymaker, el Jugarito, devises a plan and employs the help of the villagers.

Using his wit and storytelling abilities, el Jugarito is able to convince el Gigante that he has a "malady," and the only cure is for him to go to the sea.

The play featured brightly colored props and costumes, cheerful songs, and some fun and comical sounds effects. The stars of the show were a mixed age group of enthusiastic students, all speaking in both English and Spanish.

JCCS had made a request to incorporate the second language into the play, since Spanish is part of the school's curriculum and taught to all grades. In addition, JCCS brings in native speakers to work with the students, Conarro said. "The play works well with this age group, and is a great tool for Spanish instruction," Conarro said.

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Max Blust as Jugarito with Kelson Rounds McPherson, Jenae Kesey and Stephen Silides as villagers pretending to be animal people play a trick on the giant. The play involved students from kindergarten through sixth grade and was written and directed by Ryan Conarro.
For this show Conarro enlisted the help of Rick Bellagh, a musician and Spanish instructor, to create music specifically for the play. Bellagh played the guitar and was accompanied by his nephew Peter Bellagh on the saxophone and Antonio Diaz who played the guiro.

"Rick Bellagh wrote and strummed these songs with playful ingenuity, and patiently guided the Spanish text in the play," Conarro said.

The songs, much like the spoken parts of the play are a fun and cheerful combination of Spanish and English.

"My favorite part is singing," said Kelson Rounds McPherson, 8, who played a villager.

The music was not only enjoyed by the students but the audience, who often clapped in rhythm to the music.

The rehearsal spanned just more than two weeks, not including planning or script writing. In that amount of time, students were able to learn the songs and all of their lines, an amazing feat for such a large group of students.

"I worked with JCCS on the play, "The Boy Who Found the Light," last year, so most of them [the students] new what to expect" Conarro said. "They were enthusiastic."

The students spoke with energy and expression, to give life to their characters. Conarro calls this the tools of an actor, which are body, voice, imagination and facial expression. During the dress rehearsal students followed directions, brought props on and off stage and performed their lines as if they were professionals. After the rehearsal they received feedback from Conarro and asked him questions as well. The students responded well to Conarro's directions and were enjoying themselves on stage.

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Kindergarten and first-grade student Ernie Ramon, Teonna Beaird and Bryan Miramontes use the tools of an actor, which are body, voice, imagination and facial expression.
"This is my first big role. It's great to work with Ryan," said Max Blust, 9, who played the lead role as El Jugarito. "The beginning [of the play] is fun, because I pop out of a trap door that looks like a jack-in-the-box."

In addition to the direction of Conarro and the many hardworking students, there were many others who had a part behind the scenes. Many parents, teachers and volunteers came out to help with the play and to support the students. The choreography for "The Great Jugarito" was done by Heather Haugland and Antonio Diaz, design by Dianne Anderson along with students of JCCS, costumes by Beth Rivest, and poster and program design by Sarah Olsen. Other students also provided art for the program cover and interior.

"I am grateful to the Charter School and the Artists-in-Schools program for allowing me to work on this project. I've learned a lot, and I've had a good time," Conarro said.

"I want to congratulate the performers. You've accomplished so much in just two short weeks of work. Thank you for your patience, your bravery and your imagination."