When a representative of the "new regime" steps into an American schoolroom in the aftermath of war, uncertainty and suspicion are slowly erased from the children's innocent minds by a sweet and smiling new teacher - who is as subtle as the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
"It's chilling," said J. Althea, who will direct "The Children's Story," a thought-provoking, one-act play presented by Northern Light Junior Theatre.
The production features a cast of 11, most of whom appeared in the junior theatre's recent production of "The Sound of Music." "The Children's Story" will be followed at a later date by Lois Lowry's award-winning story "Number the Stars." Together the three productions shed light on the horrors and hopes that ride on the waves of war, Althea said.
"The theme wasn't planned," she said. "It just developed."
"The Children's Story" plays at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, at Northern Light United Church. Admission is $5 at the door.
"The Children's Story" will be presented in readers' theater style, with young actors reading the scripts on stage.
"(Readers' theater) is a way to explore more plays," Althea said. "And it introduces the children to alternate techniques."
Veronica Narvaez, 12, plays the beloved, elderly teacher who is replaced by the sunny schoolmistress.
"My character truly cares for her students, thinks strongly about war, and stands up for what she believes in," Veronica said.
The sixth-grade student at Floyd Dryden Middle School considers the music and some parts of "The Children's Story" script scary.
"For example, a flag will be cut up in the performance," Veronica said. "It's going to be really spooky."
Allison Neussl, 13, who plays the "new regime's" headmistress, said "The Children's Story" contains some things that you might not think about.
"When they happen," she said, "it's shocking."
The eighth-grader at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School said she is excited to play a lead role.
"And I get to play a girl," she added. Allison played a boy in Northern Light Junior Theatre's last presentation, "The Sound of Music."
Johnny, played by Aaron Cohen, is one of the students deeply affected by the sorrows of war. He doesn't like the new teacher, Aaron said, and is one of the last to get won over by her charm.
"The Children's Story" is recommended for upper elementary school students through adults.
Now in its seventh season, the Northern Light Junior Theatre extends drama opportunities to fifth grade and middle school students.
Because a U.S. flag will be cut up during the performance, arrangements have been made to burn it according to protocol during a ceremony Sunday, Jan. 26, out of respect for the flag, Althea said.
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