Middle School Takes Center Stage
“Chuck,” written and directed by Middle School Drama Teacher Katie Gonring, is an homage to the sometimes awkward, but often magical, middle school years.
As USM’s Middle School Drama Teacher, Katie Gonring has many productions to choose from for Middle School performances. But she grew frustrated with what she perceived as a lack of options that reflected an authentic Middle School experience. “There were plenty of roles—sailors, judges, parents, teachers, soldiers, kings and queens—but too few opportunities for students to see themselves in the story.”
So, she wrote one herself. The resulting play, “Chuck,” took two years to complete and was performed for the first time in May. It focuses on trauma and grief in ways that middle school-aged children can relate to, but also celebrates resilience, strength, and the profound and lasting impact of supportive friends. Gonring took input from her students, asking them if a particular word or phrase resonated and was something they would actually use. The play takes place entirely outdoors and the set was designed to mimic a backyard complete with a tree house. Joshua Miller, theatre technical director, along with Emery Endres ’23 and Hayden Lurie ’24, were even able to replicate rain fall on stage with actual water.
Although Gonring has taught all different ages throughout her career, she feels a special connection to middle school students, as evidenced in “Chuck.” “I just love that middle school students are so open to new experiences, willing to be goofy, silly, and vulnerable, and trying to navigate the end of their childhood with the beginning of young-adulthood,” said Gonring. “I hope my respect and admiration for them came through in this play.”
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