By SUSAN MINUK
Hillcrest Progressive School senior kindergarten students weren’t going to let a quarantine prevent them from going ahead with their production of The Wizard of Oz. These talented kids got creative.
Staff at the Jewish pre-school, located on two acres of wooded land in Toronto’s Hogg’s Hollow neighbourhood since 1955, were determined to help the graduating students perform their year-end school play. Parents fully backed the effort.
“Because of COVID, we didn’t want them to miss out on this amazing experience that every SK class has at Hillcrest,” said Melanie Fux, school board member and mother of two Hillcrest students.
Founded in 1929, Hillcrest is Ontario’s oldest Jewish pre-school. Its slogan: “Every day is a special day,” is meant to encourage children to investigate the world and find their place in it.
“One of the things this play did was to turn the pandemic into a challenge, and see it from the positive side, with good energy,” said Fux. “Taking what life gives you and making the most of it – that is something these kids will take with them to the future.”
How did Hillcrest execute a virtual theatre production?
“It was a family effort,” explained Fux. “We had to rehearse, prepare the scenery, perform and film from home. This gave each kid the opportunity to be creative with their family.”
Hillcrest’s principal, Queenie Spindel, brainstormed with several teachers.
Families were sent a weekly task. Kids received the songs, both just lyrics and just music, and then record their voices over the musical track, Fux explained.
“They missed being together but being able to see such an amazing result of all their hard work was sort of a surprise to them,” said Fux.
The Zoom production required time-crunched editing and was filled with special effects that brought genuine smiles to students.
“I listened to the songs over and over and I practiced with my Mom, explained five-year-old student Alec Fux, who played the Cowardly Lion.
“I loved dancing and being a lion. It was amazing to see the final video I loved the special effects,” Alec told the CJR.
How is he handling leaving the school now that he’s graduated? The Cowardly Lion is anything but in real life.
“I don’t want to leave,” he admitted. “I am a teensy bit scared [for Grade 1] but I will be fine later.”
The production was presented privately last week and published on YouTube June 19. To date, there have been a little over 300 views between the mini-clip and full play, a number the school says is growing.
Susan Minuk is both humbled and heartened by everyday stories with the power to touch or inspire her readers’ lives.