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Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

Storybook Spectacle Shines in Children’s Show ‘Miss Nelson is Missing’

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  • As students look on, Viola Swamp, portrayed by Nyx Schexnayder ’24, imposes her authority on the class. Miss Swamp served as the story’s antagonist, opposing the cheerful Miss Nelson in her strict governance over the class.

  • Clad in pink, sophomores Annie Curtis and Autumn Jacobs turn to each other in dismay. The two portrayed Courtney and Kimberly, best friends with vested interests in fashion and modeling, using physical and verbal comedy to exaggerate their characters’ youth and innocence.

  • Taking center stage, Wes Autry ’26’s character Mouse counts on his fingers in his attempt to solve a problem. Mouse, along with the rest of the class, struggled with arithmetic at the outset of the play – a fact used to comedic effect by Autry and his fellow actors.

  • Breaking away from a crowd, Lavita, portrayed by Saffron Kollodge ’26, declares her bid to become the class’ “leader.” Kollodge used exaggerated facial expressions and postures to communicate her character’s youth and comedic personality traits, stylizing her performance to represent the picture book source material.

  • Turned out to address the audience, Aarav Kumar ’26 delivers a monologue as Principal Humleker. As one of the few adult characters in the play, Kumar’s diction and authoritative affect distinguished him from the play’s hyperactive students.

  • As her students look on, Lucy Allison ’26 prepares for storytime as the titular Miss Nelson. Allison combined the characteristics of the storybook character with acting choices of her own in order to create an equally faithful and unique Miss Nelson.

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As elementary school teachers corralled restless eight- and nine-year-olds into the foldout seats of the Raymond E. Hartfield Performing Arts Center (PAC) on Tuesday, Nov. 14, second-year Acting: Production Theater students brought to life their children’s show, an adaptation of Harry Allard’s popular picture book Miss Nelson Is Missing.

Miss Nelson is Missing, like many children’s shows before it, was a production that provided many third-grade students with their first theater-going experience and for many theater students, the chance to assume larger-than-life roles and play to an enthusiastic audience. While the children are taught to sit still and laugh at the right moments, the actors learn how to manage flighty attention spans, clear communication, and comedic timing, all while maintaining a presentational style.

“It was a lot of making sure [the audience] understood what was happening and how the characters were feeling,” student director Katie Ring ‘26 said. “And also projecting and making sure everyone could be heard the whole time. We had to do a lot of big, big acting — and simplified acting — to make sure nothing was too complicated.”

Moreover, many in the Children’s Theater class are sophomores or upperclassmen who have the chance to participate in their first high school production. Alex Correia ‘26 performed in numerous plays in middle school but took to the high school stage for the first time in Miss Nelson is Missing.

“I think it was kind of nice that everyone else also had the experience of it being one of their first plays too,” Correia said. 

Correia found a series of adjustments to make in switching to the leadership of Children’s Theater Director Lydia Coats from Canyon Vista Director Jacob Vigil.

“Beforehand, I had gotten to do middle school plays, and obviously, different directors [and] different people lead to different actions and movements,” Correia said. “One of the big things I noticed was the creative differences between Ms. Coats and Mr. Vigil. Obviously, it wasn’t like one was better than the other, but it was really interesting to see the differences.”

Through all of the challenges and achievements, the cast left with a newfound sense of community forged through the shared experience of performing a full-scale performance for dozens of elementary schoolers.

“It was a very collaborative experience,” Nyx Schexnayder ‘24, who played the antagonist Miss Viola Swamp, said. “I feel like we grew very close. At the beginning of the year, everyone was very separated based on who [we] already knew going into the class, but we definitely all became close.”

Ultimately, the children’s show serves to introduce elementary schoolers to the world of live performance and high schoolers to the world of larger-than-life presentational acting, above all forging memories that persist for years.

“I learned that a good play doesn’t have to be dramatic,” Correia said. “Miss Nelson is definitely not a dramatic play at all, and I think it’s just good to remember that for something to make an impact on kids — or anybody — it doesn’t have to be super dramatic.”

Westwood Theatre will return to the PAC on Jan. 25, 2024 with Mean Girls the Musical.

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About the Contributor
Sabrina Kim
Sabrina Kim, Heritage Section Editor
Class of 2025 I’ve been obsessed with writing for as long as I’ve been retaining memories, and I’m unbelievably excited to get to write for the Horizon and work for the Heritage. I’m almost as—if not equally—enthusiastic about design, speculative fiction, traditional and digital art, playing guitar, volleyball, crocheting and knitting, consuming every kind of food and drink, learning languages, crosswords, having unreasonably strong opinions about everything, and Westwood Theatre, in no particular order. Some might say I do too much. They’re probably right.

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