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Middle school youth find friendship amid the storyline of some of author's greatest works.

PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - The annual performance is a chance for middle schoolers across the district to connect and get a taste of theater before high school.If you asked Finn Ryan several months ago if he could sing, he probably would have said no. But starting next week, the Rosemont Ridge Middle School eighth grader will take center stage in the districtwide production of "Seussical the Musical."

There aren't many opportunities for all four middle schools in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District to gather together. But, starting April 7, about 50 of the students in the district will perform the play that follows the classic Dr. Seuss' tale of "Horton Hears a Who" — with a few twists.  

Narrated by the Cat in the Hall, the play follows an elephant, Horton, who realizes there is a village situated on a speck of dust on a clover he found. Horton is then met with a twofold challenge of wanting to protect the Whos from danger while guarding an abandoned egg left in his care by an irresponsible bird. 

"It's been a really cool experience. I found out that I can actually sing, and I kind of challenge myself by memorizing all the singing and dancing that is in the play," said Ryan, who plays Whoville's vice mayor. 

PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - Narrated by the Cat in the Hall, the play follows an elephant, Horton, who realizes there is a village situated on a speck of dust on a clover he found.

Despite being stalled due to the pandemic, the performance by junior high students has been an annual tradition in the district for over 10 years. 

"(The play)?? gives students a chance to meet and work with peers from outside their school and allows for the scale of a large production like this. It helps bolster our high school drama departments as well, giving students high-level theater experience while building interest at a young age," said Communications Director Andrew Kilstrom.

With a backdrop of multicolored flowers, students danced across the West Linn High School stage and spoke in rhymes as they rehearsed for opening night. Inza R. Wood Middle School eighth grader Laurel Vanagas, one of the Bird Town Singers, joined her castmates in a musical number titled "A Person is a Person No Matter How Small." 

"It's really cool to take on the role because you can bring your own spunk to it and just really embrace the character," Vanagas said.

PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - With a backdrop of multicolored flowers, students danced across the West Linn High School stage and spoke in rhymes as they rehearsed for opening night.

Vanagas said the play also has allowed her to make friends that she otherwise wouldn't have met. 

"I really like just getting to know all the different cast members and connecting with people from different schools. It feels really natural being surrounded by people that you care about and care about you — having that support by people who you wouldn't normally cross paths with," Vanagas said. 

Athey Creek Middle School seventh grader Sam Cline who plays a Who, echoed Vanagas and said that despite being strangers months ago, he has developed a tight-knit community throughout the cast.

"It's been a really fun experience and really eye-opening to be surrounded by all these different people. I also know that even if I mess up my line or something, the group will have my back," he said. 

PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - Within the storyline of some of Dr. Seuss' greatest works, middle school students in the district have found friendship.

IF YOU GO  

When: 7 p.m. April 7, 8, 9, 11, 12 and 2 p.m. April 9 

Where: West Linn High auditorium, 5464 W. A St, West Linn 

Cost: $10 and can be purchased at HYPERLINK "http://www.tix.com/" www.tix.com. Link can be found on the district website. 


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