What happens when you put a fly, spider, bird, cat, dog, goat, cow and horse together in the pit of a stomach? You get a highly emotional existential crisis — and quite a few laughs — when the insects and animals interact as they enter the stage one by one and meet for the first time.
Rosemarie Redman, middle school theater department lead at Windermere Preparatory School, commissioned University of Central Florida theater professor Elizabeth Horn to write a one-act play for theater students to perform. The result is “Swallowed (an existential crisis),” which was performed for students and families Thursday, May 11, in the Dr. Thomas L. Marcy Theater in the Cypress Center for the Arts. The cast and crew were made up of middle school students, and all technical elements — lighting, sound effects and costumes — were designed and implemented by the students.
“I thought the kids stepped up and took a piece that wasn’t really all that easy with all the monologues they had to do and all the character work, especially at that age group … and they just rose to the occasion and really worked together as a team, too, which I think really was evident on stage.”
A mutual friend connected Redman and Horn, and the two discussed a few ideas Horn had drafted but then shelved.
“I kept feeling like there’s something in ‘The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,’” Horn said. “I was excited to have another go at this silly adaptation and to explore it more. … Rosemarie really liked the idea. I had permission to play with it. (With) the motivation of having a commission, it kind of just came out over three days. … It was just so fun, and I sent it to her. I said I felt like I wrote this in a fever dream. … She was cracking up. She loved it.”
“I thought the show was fantastic,” Redman said. “For me, it was a full circle moment because you get these ideas of how we can enhance the program, elevate the experience, and getting hooked up with Elizabeth at UCF and having her pitch the idea of the show and being part of the process, I just thought it was great.”
The performance was recorded so Windermere Prep can share its message of acceptance, trust and friendship globally with other schools, Redman said.
Horn said she loved the idea of her play being staged in a middle school preparatory setting, and she was thrilled to learn it can be shared with a network of private schools.
“It’s just really cool to me, the ability to make a wide impact,” she said.
Windermere Prep is owned by Nord Anglia Education, which has 80 schools worldwide. The show will be added to the Global Campus platform for teachers who want to access it for their students. A curriculum guide, including a vocabulary guide, accompanies the play video, and teachers can lead discussions with their students, host debates, have their students write a play critique and more.
Windermere Prep second-, third- and fourth-grade teachers also incorporated the show into their curriculum.
WPS offers theater classes to students from pre-K3 to 12th grade, as well as IB theater to juniors and seniors. The school has junior and high school thespian troupe, both of which are affiliated with the International Thespian Society. Students have showcased their performances at the district level, and the high school troupe recently performed at the state level.
Redman is going on her sixth year as theater lead; she originally taught at the school in the early 2000s and started the drama department before briefly taking time off to start a family.
In addition to teaching undergraduate classes at UCF, Horn works frequently with Orlando Repertory Theatre and takes children’s theater into the hospitals. She also works with local high schools. She has a few published plays but considers herself an emerging playwright.