Dinner and Drama at Mead Middle School

A line of female students standing above a male student who is checking for the pulse of a female student laying on the stage during a play.

For the last 15 years, Mead Middle School’s Drama Club, with the support of the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC), has been entertaining audiences with its annual dinner theater production. This year’s performance of “Murder at Aunt Agatha’s” brought the school community together for an evening of mystery, comedy, and ghostly surprises.

Directed by Janet Benter, Health and Sciences Teacher, and M.K. Mehsling, English and Social Studies Teacher, the play was set in Aunt Agatha’s eerie mansion, where her heirs gathered to hear the reading of her will. It was revealed that to inherit their share of the fortune, the relatives must survive a night in the house—with the unexpected company of ghosts. 

Auditions for the play were held the second week in March. “The Friday before spring break, we handed out scripts with the student’s name on them as well as the character they would be playing. This way, the students could get a nice head start on getting acquainted with the script and their characters.”

The cast and crew spent six weeks rehearsing daily from 3 to 5 p.m. They also held two dress rehearsals the week before the shows. “We spent the first two to three days doing our circle reading, getting to know each other, getting a feel for the play as a whole, and making suggestions as we read,” said Mehsling. “It’s really fun to see a group of students who don’t really know each other at the beginning become a tight-knit group by the end. I feel that some of these will become lifelong friendships.” 

According to Bentor, “This year’s cast did an exceptional job memorizing lines. Since students were ‘off book’ sooner rather than later, this enabled us, as directors, to have more time giving them acting pointers, which really added a lot to our show. The students were very directable, much like an athlete being coachable; the actors took in our ideas for costumes, set themes, and line delivery and worked them into the scenes.”

In addition to acting, students helped with set-building, costumes, marketing, and more. “Our promotions crew displayed pictures of students rehearsing and working on the set in the display case to show people everything that goes on behind the scenes,” explained Bentor. “We also set up a skeleton in the lobby and dressed it as one of the 23 characters from the play every day.” Students wrote announcements to read over the intercom during daily announcements to help promote the event. 

The dinner portion of the evening was coordinated by the PAC and is a fundraiser for the school. Members of the cast served attendees dinner and dessert from a local restaurant before heading backstage to get ready for the show. 

Female teacher helps a male middle school student tie his tie in the hallway.

Mead’s Drama Club provides students with an opportunity to express themselves creatively, develop their acting skills, build confidence, make new friends, and explore different characters and stories. “It creates this really supportive family for you to go to after school every day,” shared eighth-grader Annabelle VandenDries. “I’ve learned how to communicate better, and it has also helped me come out of my shell a bit more.” Seventh-grader Tessa Comer added, “I’ve enjoyed getting to know all of these new people, being in a new environment, trying new things, and getting to show off my talents in front of people.” 

Bentor commends the students for their exceptional teamwork and commitment to the production. “We are so proud of their efforts, the encouragement that they gave each other, and their attitude towards learning the elements of theater,” she shared. “Putting on a show is a lot of hard work, but these kids didn’t shy away from that. The confidence that comes from seeing the audience appreciate the result of our efforts is palpable.”

Mehsling expressed similar sentiments, stating, “I am so proud of this group. They really worked so well together. It was amazing how they jumped right into not only their lines but the production as well. Whenever someone needed help, there was always a person there to support them. This will be my last middle school production, and I can’t think of a better group of kiddos to end it with.”

Mead Middle School