Palmetto Elementary drama program keeps on going

By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld….

Pictured are Palmetto Elementary School cast members from The Rockin Tale of Snow White (l-r) Mikayla Bentolila, Matthew Buttafucco(Prince Charming, Virginia Boone, Katherine Diez and Shelby Wasserman.

For more than 10 years, Palmetto Elementary School fourth grade teacher Cheryl Ferrer has overseen a drama club that helps children realize their potential. The children audition in September for the program that calls for after school meetings and 7:15 a.m. rehearsals two or three days a week. Despite the early start, the club is very popular and boasts 47 young members.

“This year we competed at the Youth Fair,” Ferrer says. “The kids did really well. It was mostly fifth graders, some in fourth grade.”

The children give coffee house performances, presenting different monologues or skits that showcase their talents in a less formal environment.

On April 28-29, the students will present the Spring Musical, The Rockin Tale of Snow White. The production will be at Palmetto Senior High School, 7460 SW 118 St.

“We have evil queens, Snow White, Prince Charming and our seven dwarfs,” Ferrer says. “The music is phenomenal.”

They start talking about the spring musical in December then rehearse from January through April, with a week off for spring break and two weeks off for FCAT. This year, FCAT testing was done in April rather than March, which would make most show directors nervous. Ferrer just takes it in stride.

“They are doing great,” she says. “They were pretty well prepared beforehand so we are tweaking things now.”

The children involved are taking part because they want to be a part of the program.

“They auditioned to be in the club,” Ferrer says. “It is the best help for their reading, if they have any reading issues. Their self esteem goes sky high.”

There is tremendous parental involvement as well. Ferrer says the parents are half the reason she continues the program; that and the support she receives at school.

“This is such a special school,” she says. “This is my school and I love it. My kids went there and I’m hoping their kids will go there.”

Along with the rehearsals, Ferrer helps the fifth graders prepare for their magnet school auditions. Her students tend to be successful in their auditions.

“All of my leads have made it to the New World School of the Arts,” she says. “They all seem to follow it and love it.”

Fellow teacher Aileen Bogert has had two daughters go through the program and now another daughter is taking part.

“I don’t know what she does with these children, she is like a magician,” Bogert says. “She expects them to be prepared. They are responsible for knowing the schedule. They have to be ready when they go to rehearsal. It’s a lot of team work. They learn a lot of skills from the drama club.”

Bogert’s older daughter is at the New World School of the Arts and the second one auditioned successfully for Southwood, but opted to go to Carver Middle instead. Both were leads in the spring production.

Because she sees how the drama program can make a difference in a student’s life, Bogert often recommends the club for her students.

“For some kids, it really makes a difference because it makes them be a part of a group,” she says. “That changes their whole experience at school. I had no idea my daughter could sing, and I had no idea she could act. She is a different kid. Cheryl does a great job of fostering that at an early age.”

Tickets for the spring musical may be purchased at the door for $5.

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