Bringing messages of diversity, economics and friendship to Niles Middle School, actors from the Cleveland Play House performed an original play, "Margie and Mike," last week at the school.
"Margie is dealing with economic issues while learning that not everyone is like her," said Lauren Smith, one of two actors in the production.
The play opens with the main character, Margie, reading her book about a mother duck and how she takes care of her ducklings. Eight-year-old Margie, anxious to visit the public gardens where she can see real ducks, reveals to her father that she has been saving her milk money for bus fare and food for both of them.
The Niles Times / Kathleen Evanoff
Terrell Richardson, left, and Lauren Smith of the Cleveland Play House performed the touring production of “Margie and Mike” Friday at Niles Middle School. The play, an original production written and directed by Play House Education Director Pamela DiPasquale, discusses both economic and racial issues.
Margie's father, as well as five additional characters including the new neighbor, Mike, is portrayed by actor Terrell Smith.
"We're fortunate to have the Cleveland Play House come to our school," said principal John Yuhasz.
The play is generally performed for elementary students, Smith said, but middle school students get the deeper meanings behind the story.
"The students seem to emphasize with the low-income comments," Smith said. "I even get hugs afterward."
The character of Margie also is faced with issues of racism when she discovers her new neighbor, Mike, is an African American boy around her age. Finding that they have a lot in common through their love of books, Matchbox Cars and the Boston Red Sox, Margie is dismayed when her elderly babysitter tries to discourage the friendship.
"Children recognize things in the play that they learn in school," Smith said, "like Martin Luther King."
With only two rules to follow, laugh and no talking, the actors presented their message, which according to the education department at the Play House, shows children they can appreciate the differences of those around them and discover more about their own family heritage.
The play is written and directed by Play House Education Director Pamela DiPasquale. The Play House Classroom Matinee is an educational initiative that visits more than 30 classrooms each year in northeast Ohio.