Zero-budget play showcases students’ ingenuity

Sixth graders at Park Dale Lane Elementary are proving that only cardboard, repurposed clothes and creativity are needed to put on a successful play.

Neither school nor district funding has been allocated to their production of “The Little Mermaid.” But what the play lacks in money, the students make up for with ingenuity.

During play practice recently, students showed off their costumes, including fish they fashioned from recycled cardboard and then painted. Others boasted wire-hanger and fabric octopus tentacles. The set included a ship, made out of boxes that once housed TVs.

School officials said that several parents have lent a hand toward set and costume design, but sixth graders have led the way.

A zero-budget production might seem like a drawback or big obstacle. However, sixth grade teacher Steve Klass said kids learn that they can build or accomplish things without much.

“To say you need money to do artistic endeavors, it’s often an excuse,” Klass said. “It’s nice if you have it, but you don’t need it.”

“The Little Mermaid” hits the stage at 6 p.m. on May 19 at the school, free of charge.

Every sixth grader is involved in the play, whether acting or contributing to backstage production. For the last month, they’ve dedicated an hour each school day toward the effort.

Student James McKenzie said that their production could lead students to put on their own productions or continue in theatre. McKenzie enjoyed creating the fish costumes, which involved stenciling a shape on cardboard, cutting it out, painting and adding straps.

“I just liked making everything,” McKenzie said.

Student Jack Grenda echoed him, saying it was fun to customize the fish. Grenda added that the costumes will be stored so future six graders can use them, fitting what students are taught about repurposing and recycling.

Sixth grader teacher Michele Lyons said the community has rallied around the play. In particular, she noted parent Kay McKenzie has contributed toward costume design and parent Monika Whisenhunt has helped with set design.

Parent Lisa Pawlak said the play is a “culminating event for these kids to use their resources and general savvy developed during their elementary school years.” In an email, Pawlak encouraged the Encinitas Advocate to report on the production.

“It might be enlightening to the community as a whole — as arts budgets continue to be cut or are generally non-existent — to bring some attention to what can be accomplished by using a little flair, creativity, resourcefulness and vision,” Pawlak wrote in an email.  

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