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Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical: Coming soon to Poudre High School

The past few years have been incredibly difficult as we’ve struggled to navigate a worldwide pandemic, and although many activities and classes have resumed and we are recovering from those stresses, the changes we've made do not take away how difficult it was. One program at Poudre High School that suffered severely during the pandemic was our theatre program. Theatre is founded on connection and performance and as Joel Smith, our theatre director here at Poudre High School says, “'s really hard to have live performance when you can’t be anywhere near each other”. Mr. Smith comments that as we’ve returned to more “normal” times, and seem to be entering a new phase of life post-pandemic, “ a society,... but specifically as a school, there's been a lot of uncertainty, there's been a lot of anxiety, there's been a lot of things that have kind of thrown us off our expectations for what school was going to look like, and what it was going to feel like, and what it was going to be like.” As we’re making this transition to Covid-19 restriction-less life, “It's easy to underestimate that grief and that loss, and that not knowing how to deal with all the change.”

Matilda is the story of an extremely intelligent young girl with unfortunately unpleasant parents (Dahl). Although her deceiving car salesman father and cruel self-obsessed mother neglect her, Matilda teaches herself to read and speak like an adult before even stepping foot into elementary school. While her brother Michael is being indoctrinated into his father’s dishonest business, Matilda devours books at her local library and cooks up plans to teach her parents a lesson. As soon as she begins attending school at Crunchem Hall Primary School, Matilda forges a connection with the wonderfully loveable Miss Honey, a teacher who sees her potential and genius and encourages the principal of the school to move her up a couple of grades, in order to learn with students at her level. However, the principal of Crunchem Hall, Miss Trunchbull, a violently abusive and ogreous woman, believes Miss Honey is just attempting to get rid of Matilda and denies her request. As she fights back against Trunchbull’s overbearing tyranny, Matilda develops telekinetic powers that aid her in her defense of the students of Crunchem Hall. Matilda learns to manage her newfound powers for good and defends the people she loves, including Miss Honey who it is revealed is Miss Trunchbull’s niece and is being held back from ownership of her father’s estate.

When asked why he chose Matilda for this year's production, Mr. Smith paused for a moment, seeming to consider the past few years and the true weight that the pandemic has had on Poudre Theatre and all of Poudre High School as a whole. “Matilda really is about resiliency, and about bouncing back, and about finding strength that maybe you don’t know is there…and I think it tells that story in a way that's very humorous, and very upbeat, and very optimistic, and in a character like Matilda we see kind of that strength that we hope we have, and that ability to deal with hardship in a way that's fun, and …cool,”. As previously mentioned in this article, the current gradual transition back to a more “regular” reality reflecting pre-pandemic life has been difficult for many people because of the grief of the loss of life, time, and even sense of self, or even what life is supposed to be. As we’re struggling to cope with this change, we can try to find light in performances of art that really reflect the kind of hope and fun that we want to see in our own lives.

As we get together to enjoy the arts, I encourage you to consider looking into Poudre Theatre and to consider becoming involved in future performances. There are so many potential benefits. The growth and emphasis of the arts is something that Mr. Smith cares deeply about, “There is so much research that shows that students that are involved in the arts do better in their core classes, graduate at a higher rate, get along better with friends and family, …make deeper connections to other people, have skills that are helpful and useful and vital after high school, like creative problem solving and like, umm working to deadlines, and like how to deal with other people’s opinions in a way that’s going to be constructive instead of competitive,...[and] those are all the things that attracted me to being involved in theatre…[and] are why I think it's so important that we have the arts in our schools,”. However, it’s not just being involved in the production and performance that is important and can truly make a difference. There is evidence that simply attending a theater performance can greatly improve people’s outlook on life and heighten empathy. Steven Rathje, a Ph.D. student at the Trinity College Cambridge, actor, and lover of theatre proposed a study on the effect of theatre on their audiences. This study involved a total of three field studies that involved 1,622 audience members and their attitudes concerning “racial discrimination, income inequality, welfare, corporate regulations, wealth redistribution, and affirmative action. They also completed assessments of empathy and charitable giving,”(Dolan). These studies revealed that after seeing plays that concerned stories related to different struggles, including Skeleton Crew a play about auto workers after the financial crisis of 2008, Sweat which covers the stories of factory workers living in one of the poorest towns in the United States; and a play titled Wolf Play, which tells the tale of a same-sex couple trying to adopt a child (Dolan). After the audiences were exposed to these performances, they were more likely to feel empathy for the people shown in the play, and feel more passionately about the social and political issues which were presented. Not only were the people more likely to feel empathetic towards the people in the stories, but they were also more likely to donate towards causes monetarily. Relating these findings to live theatre, Rathje says, “Past research finds that collective experiences are more intense than solitary ones, so we suspect that there might be something special about live theatre,...Even though the arts are a huge part of the human experience, this is an understudied topic in psychology, so I hope that there will be more research on this topic soon,” (Dolan). Although there should be more research conducted on this topic, this experiment and its findings are incredibly interesting.

This photo was taken from the Poudre Theatre Instagram. It pictures a rehearsal of Romeo and Juliet, the Poudre Theatre’s spring production last year.

Mr. Smith’s message for the students of Poudre High School was this: “I’d like students to know that the theatre program here is open to them. …You don't have to sing and dance on stage. There are opportunities for you…there is something for every interest, for every schedule, for everyone who thinks that they're too busy, or thinks that they're only allowed to do other stuff, uh I think we've done a really good job over the years of creating a program that you can get into whenever you want to, you can get out of whenever you feel like you need to, and there's access for everyone, so I hear a lot of students who say, well, I can't do theater because I'm in a sport or I can’t do theatre because I’ve too many classes in my schedule, …and if students at the school are interested in being involved in any way in theater or even if they just want to see what it's like, there are ways to do that,”. If you are interested in more information on Poudre Theatre or how to get involved, there are answers on the Poudre Theatre Website.

The schedule for the showings of this wonderful musical is as follows:

Fri. Oct 28th, 2022, 7:00 pm

Sat. Oct 29th, 2022, 7:00 pm

Thu. Nov 3rd, 2022, 7:00 pm

Fri. Nov 4th, 2022, 7:00 pm

Sat. Nov 5th, 2022, 2:30 pm

Save the date for the performance at 7:00 pm on Thursday, November 3rd! This showing is Poudre’s annual $3 Thursday performance! All Poudre students and staff can get in for only $3, which is less than half of the student price for the rest of the performances. More information concerning Poudre Theatre’s performance of Matilda, including the cast list is available on the Poudre Theatre website, which can be reached here!

The Poudre students that are involved in this production whether it be through performance, tech, costuming, set building, or more, have put an incredible amount of time and effort into this production. Mr. Smith says this show is truly for the Poudre Community, “So come see it, come support the people who are involved in it, but come to have a good time! It's going to be funny, it’s going to be talented, it's going to be a great show, so, no reason not to come!”

Works Cited

Matilda The Musical| Matilda Tony Award Winning Musical| Matilda Broadway / Matilda The Musical | Broadway Show | Matilda in New York, Accessed 22 September 2022.

Dahl, Roald. “Matilda: Full Book Summary.” SparkNotes, Accessed 22 September 2022.

Dolan, Eric W. “Live theatre can boost empathy and pro-social behavior, according to new research.” PsyPost, 25 July 2021, Accessed 3 October 2022.

Poudre Theatre. Poudre Theatre, 2022, Accessed 30 September 2022.

“Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical | Music Theatre International.” Music Theatre International |, Accessed 29 September 2022.

Elizabeth Bentley is a senior at Poudre High School, and this is her first year at the Poudre Press. She writes a blog that you can check out here!

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