MONTVILLE, NJ - Normally when middle schools, like Lazar, hold a play, they stage it at their facilities. But for the week of Dec. 9, 50 Lazar students performed at six locations, including their own middle school as well as all of Montville Township’s elementary schools: Hilldale, Cedar Hill, William Mason, Valley View and Woodmont.

This year’s fall production was “The Stone in the Road,” written by Kristi Thielen, published by Pioneer Drama Service, from Englewood, Colorado. The first group to see the one-hour play was none other than the middle schoolers’ parents, where it got great reception.

“I loved it since it was fun and expressive,” said Lauren Modrak, who got to see her 12-year-old daughter Sofia play the role of painter Mrs. Silverton. “The lesson of the play involving doing good deeds is a very worthwhile message to the students. And I thought Sofia did a very good job.”

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Lauren’s husband David, who is also a member of the Montville Township Board of Education, said, “This was very wonderful. It’s so nice that they do this and that they want to teach something for the elementary students.”

“The Stone in the Road” features the story of Queen Miriana and her servant Barcarole who place a large boulder in a road. As they hid in the bushes, numerous individuals contemplating their lives, but not moving the rock out of the road. The queen and the servant wish to know if someone will commit a selfless act of moving the rock off the road for the convenience of others.

“It was a fun role and pretty easy,” said seventh grader Ryan Cortes, who played Phipps the burglar. “It was a fun way to interact with all the kids in all the grades, everyone worked hard, but it wasn’t a super ‘serious,’ it was a fun way to work on my acting.”

Sixth grader Jennah Amer was another performer who found the play to be fun.

For each show, she played a child of parents trying to find a place in nature to do a family portrait, but unconcerned about moving the stone in the road.

“My role was pretty easy because there were not too many lines to memorize,” said Amer. “I think it was awesome!”

Lazar students performed to nearly a thousand fellow Montville students over the course of the week. In each show, elementary students laughed and cheered for the show, finding the play a great delight. They were also happy to see former classmates from last year.

“I love it because at the end of each play, there’s a story and lesson to be told,” said Rena Monte, a fifth grader of Woodmont. “And when I go into sixth grade, I want to be in plays. I like seeing the kids who were once here to be back at Woodmont.”

Eight-year-old Avery Freda, a third grader from Woodmont, was also inspired by the play.

“It was very good, and it makes me want to act on stage,” said Freda. “I like the queen because she wanted to see an act of kindness.”

This year’s fall production was not only an opportunity to perform for multiple locations, but a way for the Lazar students to act as mentors to elementary kids and teach them to do good deeds for others.

“The one set of lines this year was long, but besides that it was easy,” said seventh grader Angelina Vecchione, who played Jackie, the play’s hero. “I liked it and it was lots of fun!”

And for some performers, such as eighth grader Joshua Bienskie-Jackson, doing plays at Lazar is becoming bittersweet as this is the final year performing during their time at Lazar.

“This part was easy compared to others once I memorized the lines,” said Bienskie-Jackson, who played the queen’s servant Barcarole. “It was awesome and so much fun. I am going to miss it a lot!”

This year’s fall production was directed by special education teachers Kaitlin Sheridan and Alyson Coppola. Sheridan has directed fall plays at Lazar for two years, while Coppola has directed fall plays for four years.

“This year has been a lot of fun,” said Coppola. “We have a huge cast that has made it both challenging and a good time. The cast has worked hard, and this year has been a year of many new additions such as two casts. We could not be prouder of the entire cast!”

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