April 10, 2003
Adventures in Drama
By Howie Mansfield
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Blessed Sacrament Students Participate in Class Production
Children have talents and gifts that can be discovered with the right nurturing. Sister Nicolette Vennaro, OSF, third grade teacher at Blessed Sacrament School in Syracuse, has been tapping into children’s abilities for drama for over 40 years.
On April 4, third grade students presented Wonders of Storybook Land, a play about two young children, Betty and Billy, and their journey through an imaginary land of make-believe and storybook characters. “The play is about a little boy and girl who are bored in their play room. They knew they wanted to do something, so they closed their eyes and thought of an adventure they could have,” Sister Nicolette said. “They wished they were in Storybook Land, and met all the story book characters along the way.”
Wonders of Storybook Land uses a combination of popular animated characters, including Alice in Wonderland and the White Rabbit, Pinocchio, Captain Hook and Peter Pan, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Raggedy Ann and Andy. Sister Nicolette said students began practicing for the play after the Christmas break, during school time. They are also learning many of their lines at home.
Kevin Frasier, 8, who played Peter Pan, said he enjoying practicing for the play. “It was kind of hard to learn lines,” Kevin said. “But we had fun. I like the part of the play when I have a sword fight with Captain Hook.” Nicole Donati, 8, the play’s Blue Fairy, said months of dedication are now paying off. “We practiced as much as we could,” Nicole said. “Once you get to know your lines, everything is pretty easy.” Cole LaVenture, 8, said the most difficult part of the play for him was moving and singing at the same time. “It’s hard, but a lot of us have to do that,” said Cole. The production this year had special significance as ten former students returned to see the musical at Blessed Sacrament School. Twenty-three years ago, while Sister Nicolette was a teacher at St. Daniel School in Syracuse, she directed Wonders of Storybook Land. Maria Iannolo and Christopher Celentano, who played Betty and Billy in the 1980 production, reprised their roles, joining the cast for the final song “The Age of Not Believing.”
“It’s great to have Maria and Christopher come back,” Sister Nicolette said. “Maria is now in Medical School at Georgetown and Christopher is a seminarian studying at St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland. We are glad they were able to clear their schedules to be with us for this event.” Blessed Sacrament School will offer a drama club next year for students, Sister Nicolette said. She said the drama club is something a Catholic school can easily add to its offerings. “When you have a production like this, you find all sorts of children who want to be in a play,” she said. “Next year, we will have a club for them.”
Sister Nicolette explained that some of her students have gone on to act in other plays and musicals, either in high school or professionally. “One of my students that I had in first grade I hear was Oliver in New York City,” she said. “I hope with a drama club, I can continue to bring out the talent in the children, talent they didn’t think they had.”