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Nov 28, 2017 5:21 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Springs School Fourth Graders Turn Opera Into A Pollock-Themed Caper

Members of the cast of the Springs School Opera rehearsing in the auditorium of the East Hampton High School. JON WINKLER
Nov 28, 2017 5:21 PM

It’s 4 p.m. on Monday afternoon, and the cast of this year’s Springs School Opera has a busy week ahead.Not only have the fourth-graders just returned from Thanksgiving break—five days without rehearsal—but they are practicing and performing on a new stage: the auditorium at East Hampton High School, instead of the opera’s usual home on the stage at Guild Hall.

They have only nine days to get down the moves and the music of the show, in and out of costume, before opening night on Wednesday, December 6.

And yet the second the kids take the stage and the first “Five, six, seven, eight!” rings out from the opera’s coordinator, Meghan Lydon, the kids hit their marks and recite their lines like Broadway naturals.

“The kids rally to any occasion and just roll with it,” Ms. Lydon said. “They’re just excited to get to work.”

The 21st Springs School opera, running through Friday, December 8, will continue the tradition of having a story with a local connection. This year’s opera will be a caper, with the student-written lyrics and story solving the mystery of a Jackson Pollock painting stolen from the Pollock-Krasner House on Springs-Fireplace Road, which Springs students have visited on field trips in previous years.

Ms. Lydon said the idea came from the students learning in third grade about the famous Abstract-Expressionist and Springs resident.

“Because the past few years especially have been so rooted in local stories and local institutions, the writers were brainstorming and thought, ‘How can we keep that tradition alive and turn it into a mystery?’” Ms. Lydon said.

As usual with the opera, every element of the show from the dialogue to the costumes to the sets and lyrics are created by fourth-grade students. Ms. Lydon said the kids are a “fun mix” of experienced performers who have participated in summer theater programs or musical festivals at the school as well as kids who’ve never been involved in any form of a stage performance.

That range was on display at rehearsals with the likes of Jhonny Calle, a first-time actor playing a surfer in the show. “I’m a little nervous to be in front of people, but I think being in the show teaches me not to be nervous,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of new friends here and it’s been fun being a part of the opera.”

On the flip side, there’s Colleen McKee and Melanie Vizcaino, who play two agents investigating the plucked painting and who both started taking dance classes at the age of 4.

“I always wanted to be performing and I was excited that I got one of the lead roles,” Colleen said on a break from rehearsals.

“It’s happy, exciting and scary because now we’re talking in front of an audience and there’s going to be so many people here,” Melanie chimed in.

The “here” Melanie referred to was the comparatively massive auditorium at East Hampton High School. There’s also a change in time, as the opera is usually put on a month later, in January. The reason for the new time and new place is, as Ms. Lydon said, an exciting one: Springs School is planning to hold a musical for the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students later in this school year. Auditions will be held one week after the opera, and the show is planned for March. The switch of venue actually saved the school district money that it can use for the middle school musical.

“The high school was so generous to open its doors and let us be there for essentially no fee, and that’s given us the funds necessary to have a middle school production,” Ms. Lydon said.

She and other staff members have applied to stage the middle school musical at the high school as well, but that has not yet been confirmed. For now, Ms. Lydon said, she is just proud to be working with a group of kids ready to take the stage at a moment’s notice.

“It’s so satisfying to work with a group of children who really want to do this work and want to do it well and show up with a smile on every day and are committed to producing work that they feel proud of,” Ms. Lydon said. “We’re lucky to work with such a dedicated group of kids.”

“The Case of the Missing Pollock” will open for the general public at 7 p.m. on December 6 at East Hampton High School, followed by performances for students during the school day on Thursday and Friday, December 7 and 8.

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