SAUGUS — A group of seventh grade students from Belmonte Middle School, most of whom have had no experience in drama, are entertaining a roomful of adults from the town, demonstrating through skits what they’ve learned about marketing and advertising.
Right there, say Steve Black and Ali Mahon, they’ve put together a number of life skills that will probably serve them well as they go forward.
There’s the drama, of course. But there’s also writing, speaking, persuasion, building sets, using props, and finally, marketing and advertising.
“We know when these kids come to our classes that few of them will probably do anything with drama in their lives,” says Mahon, middle school drama director. “But in some way, what we do makes an impact on them.”
This is the Saugus school district’s March to the Arts, where students from elementary on up get to show their friends and parents what they’ve learned from their association with the fine arts. The exhibition took place Wednesday at the high school and involved a fifth grade choir, a high school drama club production called “Noises Off,” concerts, showcases, improvisation, workshops, arts and crafts and other displays.
This was the third annual performance, but the first that was a collaboration of the entire district, said Black, who is the high school drama director.
Aside from showing the town what they’ve accomplished by learning and implementing different aspects of the arts, the town is also celebrating a banner year in its performing of them. The middle school won a state teachers’ award for visual arts; the a capella group, the Sachimes, ended up being ranked among the top nine in New England; and the drama club ended up among the top 14 in the state and was to compete this weekend in the New England competition.
Mahon said that nights such as Wednesday prove that when it comes to the arts, everyone has talents that can contribute to the cause one way or the other.
“There are many varieties of art,” she said, “and many reasons why it’s important to people. Even something like doodling to relieve boredom, or playing or singing music to relieve stress. They are a vital part of life. We have so many different varieties of things to offer.”
The seventh-graders at Thursday’s demonstration advertised refrigerators and other household items. The creativity came not just from the skits themselves, but all the ancillary aspects, such as the sets, props and behind-the-stage work.
“What I love about it is when you see something in a kid that just comes out in this type of environment,” she said.
In the middle school, where the arts are part of the curriculum (as opposed to being an extracurricular activity in high school), sixth-graders learn the foundations, such as playwriting, puppetry, and improvisation. Seventh-graders learn collaboration and solo performances.
The whole idea, said Mahon, is “to get the kids to tell their own stories themselves.
“There are a lot of kids who come to our classes that don’t have a lot of confidence in themselves, and this is a way to draw them out,” she said. “Also, it’s nice to see a kid get the fundamentals here, and then see what Steve can do with them once they get to high school. There’s a huge sense of accomplishment with some of them.”
Mahon also said the arts community in the district is very welcoming and accepting, especially toward students who feel as if they don’t fit in anywhere else.
“I like ‘awkward and crazy.’ And even with kids who come to our classes who may think they’re too cool for this, I find the crazier I get — and I can get crazy — they eventually buy into it.
“By the time our kids are in the eighth grade, they’re giving speeches, and really coming out of their shells. They know that there’s someplace where they belong.”