When chorus students at Theodore G. Davis Middle School asked their teacher why the school didn’t have a drama club, Mark Pavlecic didn’t have an answer.

“I began researching this answer and see what I needed to do to make it happen,” he said. Pavlecic knew he had the support of his choir students who were willing to put in the time to rehearse and stage a show, but how could he pitch it to the rest of the school?

“I chose the musical, “Aladdin Jr.,” because it was familiar to many students,” he said. He collaborated with the school’s Relay for Life team that first year – 2015 – which helped him establish the drama club. For “Aladdin Jr.,” about 40 students showed up to audition. This year, for the club’s production of “Beauty and the Beast Jr.,” nearly 120 students came to tryouts.

The students at Davis middle school are very much into the drama club,” Pavlecic said.

“I joined the play to practice my acting,” said seventh grader Lara Oribello, who plays Madame de La Grande Bouche, the enchanted wardrobe, in “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” “It’s fun. It’s a really cool play, and last year’s play, “Little Mermaid Jr.,” was amazing.”

There’s more to the play then opening night and applause from the audience. There’s dancing, stage combat, stunts, an iconic yellow ball gown.

“They rehearse once a week on Thursdays to put the staged production together for an hour-and-a-half after school. Those students who have major singing roles like solos, duets and featured songs, are asked to rehearse on Wednesday morning for half-an-hour before school begins. That’s an impressive amount of work that our students put in.”

Teachers fill out behind-the-scenes roles. Jennifer Bullard, a sixth-grade language arts teacher, is the director’s assistant. Tabatha Blandford, a special education teacher, is the choreographer; Rebecca Bullard, the physical education teacher, handles costumes; Taylor Gross, a seventh-grade social studies teacher is the prop master; and the set creator is Laura Merryman, a language arts teacher for seventh graders.

At a recent rehearsal, the students focused on the opening scene with Belle — played by eighth grader Madison Johnson wearing high top Chuck Taylors (it’s only rehearsal) — greeting the townsfolk while singing about this provincial life. Pavlecic weaved through the singing bakers, merchants and Gaston fangirls, while adding bits of choreography and encouraging vocal projection.

Many of the Davis students involved with drama club are set on continuing acting and taking theater classes in high school.

“It’s nice to be part of the theater community,” said Ajaiya Thomas, an eighth grader who is playing Mrs. Potts, the singing teapot. “I like to sing and dance,” added eighth grader Chance Pryor who is playing the Beast.

Parents, family members, friends and the community enjoy the productions, as well, Pavlecic said. “Each night of the production tends to see roughly between 300 and 380 guests,” he said.

Beauty and the Beast Jr. is set to run April 27 and 28 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of North Point High School at 2500 Davis Road in Waldorf. Tickets are $9 for adults and $5 for students, children and senior citizens.

About CCPS

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,900 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

Images courtesy of Theodore G. Davis Middle School