Mesa Elementary briefly transported back in time

 

May 22, 2019



Stepping into Mesa Elementary’s multi-purpose room recently was stepping back into The Golden Age of Radio.

Fifth-grade teachers Cheryl Cunningham, Ashlee Spears, and Aundi Curtis resurrected a play they’d done some years ago, called “Radio Days.”

Written by Cunningham years earlier, when teaching at Cameo Elementary, this production had actually grown out of a classroom “reader’s theater” activity Cunningham had incorporated to improve students’ reading fluency.

Radio Days has clearly evolved extensively, expanding into a vaudeville-like performance, completely produced by students. Part history lesson, part slap-stick entertainment, part variety show, the audience is taken back to the days of the Golden Age of Radio, spanning the early 1920s through the 1940s.

The audience of Mesa students, parents, and community members were the “live studio” audience, enjoying songs, dances, commercials, and the costumed radio announcers moderating the show. Sets were multiple canopy tents with drop-down painted awnings, rotated as needed by student stage crews to represent New York City, Hollywood, Oklahoma of the Dust Bowl days, and more, with additional props added each time to complete the illusion.


Students took care of sound, costumes, the works.

The vintage commercials were hilarious, with dancing giant toothbrushes, oversized singing Jell-O boxes, huge Tootsie Pops, and much more.

Adorable “flappers” appeared periodically to perform the Charleston and Lindy Hop. Skits were riddled throughout with the jargon of the times: bee’s knees; yes, indeedy; spiffy; right-ee-oh; wowza, wowza, wowza, and many more, particularly comical when exclaimed with relish by fifth graders.

There was a Lone Ranger and Tonto segment, with the heroes defeating the bank robbers and rescuing damsels. Even though they galloped on stick horses, the enthusiasm with which the rescue took place was in no way diminished.

Abbott and Costello put in an appearance with their famous “Who’s On First?” to the howling laughter of the audience. They concluded their act by rousing the crowd to join in on “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” which brought down the house.

Cunningham described to me afterward, “It’s always amazing to see how hidden talents of students come alive; from shy students who become outspoken stars to a whole array of creativity that emerges.”

A powerhouse performance, overall, perhaps best described by a couple of kindergartners I overheard, sitting behind me. “Wow! That was hilarious!” one said to another, slapping their knees, as they rocked back and forth in laughter.

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the instructional technology coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools. She can be reached at

[email protected]

 
 

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