Students from P.S. 189 got the chance to perform at Flushing Town Hall in a reproduction of the musical “Guys and Dolls.”
“Guys and Dolls Jr.” opened to a full house at 6 p.m. and featured original costumes and set design by Music Theatre International.
The cast consisted of students from grades 6-8, who rehearsed first at their own school, then began rehearsals for one week at the Town Hall.
The production, which was funded by a Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) grant faced budget issues in the beginning, was one of two grants the Town Hall had received so far this year.
The school was chosen by Council member Peter Koo from a list of arts institutions to be given an extended arts budget for their play. Council member Koo could not be reached for comment on contending arts organizations. The grants are expressly given out through the borough’s council member and is based on how much CASA funding is available at the start of the year.
Once the grant funding is initiated for the specific school, then plans are set in motion at FTH and the chosen educational institution to create a unique arts experience for their students.
“It’s really unusual because it is a sizeable grant, where we can actually mount the whole production with that funding. That’s a rarity. So this is quite a gift to the community and the school,” said Gabrielle Hamilton, educational director at FTH.
“Once we received the CASA grant, I met with JHS 189 and learned that they wanted to use this grant to create the musical Guys & Dolls Jr with performances at Flushing Town Hall for 189 students and the general public,” explained Hamilton. “Then FTH developed an artistic team to produce the play—including finding custom designers, set designers and our onsite production crew.”
With the new state-initiated teacher evaluation system in place since February, making time to rehearse for the play was a bit more difficult this year, explained Daryl Ware, arts teacher at P.S. 189, who coached the students for the play.
“As an art teacher it’s hard to be told that you’ll have much less time to spend teaching and rehearsing with the kids, because it’s not something that can be done overnight,” said Ware. “But I think we worked through it and turned out a fabulous play. It was just great to see the smiles on my students’ faces behind the scenes… it makes it all worthwhile.”
Council member Peter Koo, who was present at the performance, urged parents and relatives to be supportive of the arts in their community at the end of the play.
“As you can see, the arts are very important to our community,” said Koo to the audience. “We hope you will help us to keep the arts alive in Queens and continue to participate in our programs. It was a wonderful show.”