Hope Highlands drama club debuts with 'Beauty and the Beast'

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After months of auditions, rehearsals, costume and set design and technical preparation, the Hope Highlands Middle School's after school drama club debuted their first show last week, with three performances of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," gracing the stage on Friday and Saturday.

The event culminated half a school year of work, and many hours of volunteer time put in by faculty and staff members at the school and by outside volunteers.

Music teacher David DiMaio and English Language Arts teacher Jared Santurri both share a love for theater and drama after having been part of drama clubs at their previous schools, and spoke early in the school year about the possibility of creating a drama club at HHMS. They were willing to volunteer their time to create the after school drama club which would ultimately meet twice a week for two hours at a time.

"Having such a small student population was a concern, but we decided to hold a few meetings and see what the turn out was like," said Santurri. "We had 40-50 students show up to our first meeting back in January. As time went on, some students left early on and others joined as needed. We had approximately 42 students in drama club this year."

"After holding auditions, casting students for each role, and learning the music, I asked art teacher Lisa Erb to help me create the set pieces,” Santurri continued. “I presented her with a few ideas and she didn't hesitate to help. As the months went on, Lisa helped us create some other props, like the vibrant 'stained glass' rose window for the castle scenes and essential costumes such as Beast's headpiece and hands, and Lumiere.”

Erb's husband helped to create some of the set pieces, which were designed to roll back and forth to and spin from front to back, which allowed for both sides of the set to be used with just a turn one way or another. The pieces were also created so that they could be used over and over again for future years' performances.

"David DiMaio also created pieces of the set including the fountain and some of the other constructed pieces," Erb said.

DiMaio's fiancée, Lorea Meabe, is credited with the choreography, which included kick lines and other intricate small and large group dances.

Additionally, students on the technical crew incorporated a shadow puppet scene into the show, which depicted portions of the play, shown in lights on the ceiling above the stage.

"As our tech rehearsals neared Steve Scappaticci (Science Program Supervisor for Cranston Public Schools) was happy to dedicate many hours to helping us set up our sound/mic equipment, work through a few difficulties and then run the board with a few students during the actual shows," DiMaio said.

The support of school administration was also a key component to the program running smoothly over the past many months and into showtime.

"We are lucky to have two awesome and supportive administrators, Principal Alex Kanelos and Assistant Principal Katrina Pillay," said DiMaio. "We pitched the idea of the drama club to them and they let us have the floor, so to speak, and they were always there when we needed them."

As curtain time drew near on Friday evening, the cast, crew and advisors were abuzz with excitement and anticipation, and all hands were on deck for the last minute details, as they'd been for the months leading up to the show.

When all was said and done, the program was deemed a success, thanks to all involved.

"Overall, Dave and I started the program," Santurri said. "Lisa Erb helped tremendously with her artistic ability, and Steve Scappaticci was there when we needed him towards the end and during the actual shows. There were countless others that helped in many ways to make our drama club a success. We hope to continue it next year."

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