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Welcome, everyone, to the next episode of Provo City School District’s What’s Up With the Sup podcast. I am Superintendent Wendy Dau. For this week’s episode, I am joined by two guests. They are Kirsti Kirkland, the Library Media Specialist at Provost Elementary and Claire Moreira, a current Timpview student that attended Provost for Elementary School.They will be telling me all about the musical that Provost puts on every year and the impact that it has on students.
But first, here are our updates for this week.
- Please continue to check your school’s website, calendar, and social media for important information and dates.
- Richard Culatta, the CEO of the International Society for Technology and Education, will be visiting the district next week. On Thursday, October 5th, he will be the featured speaker of our Digital for Good Community Series from 7 to 8. 30 p. m. at NuSkin headquarters. This event is focused on families and how to raise kids to thrive in an online world. We invite everyone to join us for this special event. Check our website for ticket information and streaming options.
- The next school board meeting will be a study session and a business meeting on Tuesday, October 10th. Study sessions generally begin at 5 o’clock p.m. and are held in Board Room1 at the district office. Business meetings start at 7 p. m. and are held in the Professional Development Center at the district office.Both meetings are open to the public.
- Heads up that the school district will be charging patrons $10 to park their vehicles at Centennial Middle School during the BYU game on Friday. All proceeds will help 8th graders pay for their trip to Washington, D. C. next summer. Unfortunately, it’s cards only. No cash.
- Look for the weekly videocast from me every Friday. In this short video, I provide important information and updates about what we are working on throughout the district.
Here are this week’s shoutouts.
- On Monday, October 2nd is National Custodian Appreciation Day. We would like to give a huge thanks to all of our custodians who make our schools such incredible places for our students to learn.
- It is also Hispanic Heritage Month until October 15th.
- And fall graduation will take place at Independence High School on Wednesday at 5 o’clock p.m..
Well, now on to our guests for our podcast.
So we have Kirsti Kirkland, who is the Library Media Specialist at Provost. And she also serves as the director of the musical.
Our second guest is Claire Moreira, a former Provost student currently at Timpview High School, who participated in the musical at Provost when she was a student there.
Kirsti and Claire, tell us a little bit about yourself. So Kirsti, let’s start with you and then we’ll go to Claire.
Kirsti: Okay, as you said, I work as the librarian at Provost Elementary, as well as the social media content manager and the after school clubs coordinator, so I do a lot. All five of my kids went to Provost when they were younger, and so I became heavily involved with the school since they were young. And then as soon as my youngest went into first grade, the librarian position opened up at Provost and I applied for it and got it. I actually have a bachelor’s degree from BYU in theater education for secondary schools, but I fell in love with elementary school students, so I decided to stay at Provost.
Wendy: That’s amazing. So you wear a lot of hats at Provost Elementary.
Kirsti: I do.
Wendy: I have heard that you’re like the heart of the school.
Kirsti: I don’t know what to say to that.
Wendy: Well, I’ve heard that you’re the heart of the school and we’re going to go with that.
Kirsti: Okay. How about that?
Wendy: Okay, Claire, your turn. You tell us a little bit about you.
Claire: Um, so I am a sophomore. I have been doing theater for so many years, ever since I was in elementary school. I’m 15 years old. I have an older sister.
Wendy: That’s awesome. Have you continued your interest in theater and musicals at Timpview?
Claire: Yes, so right now I’m in Hunchback. Well, Hunchback of Notre Dame at Timpview Theater. Um, I’m an ensemble soloist. So, um, basically I’m in the ensemble, but I do have some soloist lines. Um, yeah, I’ve been continuing doing that for years. Like I do stuff at the Scera Theater over up in Orem. I’m in a group over there.
Wendy: Oh, I have so many questions that we’re going to get to, so I won’t forget those. So Kirsti, let’s start with what about this program interested you enough that you wanted to be part of this musical at Provost?
Kirsti: Okay, so when I was younger growing up, I was really, really shy and a bit of a perfectionist, so I was always scared of failing things. And I got into high school and I wanted to challenge myself and learn how to talk and interact with people better, so I enrolled in a drama class and discovered that it was terrifying, but I absolutely loved it. Loved it. And I discovered that I was capable of more than I thought that I was. I learned that most people felt exactly the same way that I did. They also felt socially awkward or scared that they were going to say or do something wrong in their lives. So when I started working at Provost, I decided that I wanted to share my experiences with the students there, so that they didn’t have to wait until they were 16 or 17 years old to discover that they were capable of so much more than they believed themselves to be. So to me, theater is about trying different things, to experiment, and to fail, and to try again, that nothing is ever perfect, and that’s okay. And I wanted them to be around their peers and their friends so that they could go on to middle school and high school and hopefully begin to see these challenges as a chance for them to grow, whether it was academically, mentally, or socially, that they had that start from the very beginning.
Wendy: I really feel like theater makes you do sometimes extraordinary things like it really does force you out of your comfort zone and in a safe space because you’re supposed to do that. Right. So that allows you to learn how to do that in this safe space. So then would you say that helps kids as they do it outside of the theater?
Kirsti: Definitely. Absolutely it does.
Wendy: That’s awesome. Um, so. Why did you choose Claire to represent the musical?
Kirsti: So Claire was in the first musical I ever directed at Provost. She was in fourth grade and she was an absolute joy to work with. She continued to do shows with me in fifth grade and then again in sixth grade. So I got to see Claire grow in confidence. I got to see her grow in her talents and her abilities. But more than that, I got to see Claire grow in her leadership skills. So as a sixth grader, she started mentoring and helping the younger students feel like they belonged to the cast. And I watched her encourage them when they got discouraged. And she was just a good, positive force for these younger kids. And I knew that she hadn’t stopped her theater experience after elementary school. She invited me to some of her shows in middle school and I could see that she was continuing to work hard and to grow and to progress. So when I was approached to do this podcast, I immediately thought of her and I thought maybe she would have something to share that might help others out there to reach a little higher, try a little harder, uh, that she might be the one that would make a difference to one of our listeners.
Wendy: What were the musicals that you did when Claire was at Provost? Do you guys remember?
Kirsti: Do you remember? I remember.
Claire: I do. Um, so the first one that I was in was Space Pirates. Um, I think the second one that I was in was Tut Tut, the musical. Um, and in sixth grade, so the third one, was BOTS the musical.
Wendy: Was what?
Claire: BOTS the musical, yeah.
Wendy: That sounds, it’s like about the little bots, like, like robots, or?
Claire: Yeah, it’s about like, um, robots.
Kirsti: It’s about these three school teams that build robots and they go into a competition with their robots.
Wendy: That sounds awesome.
Kirsti: It’s a fun show.
Wendy: That sounds like a really fun show, so. So Claire, I hear that Provost focuses on music and that students learn instruments while they’re at Provost. Did you learn any? And if so, what instruments did you learn while attending there?
Claire: So when I started at Provost, we started with violin, I want to say. After that, every year we would learn a different one or continue with the same instrument. In third grade, I learned how to play the piano. And then the year after that, I went back to violin. And then we got to choose between, like, bass, cello, violin, and viola. And so I did cello for a little bit, switched back to violin. Our fifth grade year, we learned ukulele or guitar, or you could continue with the other ones. And then our sixth grade year, we did band. So we had clarinet, the flute, the trombone, and the trumpet, and I chose the clarinet.
Wendy: And do you still play those instruments today, or are there some that you’ve kept up with?
Claire: Yes, after elementary school, I took some piano lessons and then I found an interest in guitar, which was one of the ones I didn’t pick when I was in elementary school.
Claire: But I definitely do feel like learning guitar now is so much more easier because throughout the years I’ve just learned how to do more instruments and learn more instruments, so I picked up guitar really quickly and I still play it today.
Wendy: That’s incredible. So did you kind of getting involved with all of these instruments? Is that what helped connect you to the musical or was it something else that made you want to get involved with the show?
Claire: In third grade our musical came up and I was one of the first people to ask if their graders were allowed to be in the musical and she said yes and I was so excited to audition because I just wanted to make as many friends as I could and being in that inspired me to do like the other musicals that were available. And my one thing, like the goal that I always keep in mind when I go into any show, no matter what character or part or anything that I get, I go there to make friends and to make everyone else feel like they are welcome.
Wendy: I can’t even get my head around that because that’s such an amazing reason why you would want to be a part of a musical like most people want to be a part of a musical because they want to be the center of attention. And what you’re trying to do is build a community. And that’s just a really powerful concept in my mind. You want to… you want to develop these connections with other people. And now you have this thing in common that you have done that that’s pretty powerful. So tell me how those friendships have continued or have they? Or with each show, do you just make new friends and then you’re friends for a little while and then you tell me about that? How has that helped you?
Claire: So definitely after elementary school, I wanted to do more things with theater. So I started to audition for stuff at the Scera theater and the first show that I did there was Mary Poppins Jr. on the Shell stage during the summer and when I went there, I wasn’t expecting a bigger part or anything like that and I made so many friends, and all of them I still keep in touch with today, and some of them I even do shows with, and even after that I was in General Ruckus over there, and I made my best friends that I’ve had for the next three years and I still keep contact with all of them We all go to school together so that has really inspired me still to like keep on doing stuff like this because everywhere I go I’m always making friends. And theater is just one of the main things that I do to make friends.
Wendy: That’s great that you have that built in community and, and it sounds like it just stays, it keeps going even after the show is over. So, Kirsti, what benefits have you seen in the students that participate in the musical?
Kirsti: I think the main benefit is their ability to believe in themselves. So watching them allow themselves to be vulnerable in front of hundreds of people, it does something to a student that I don’t think anything else can. They kind of feel a connection to everyone, not only in the cast, but everyone in the audience and that excites them and they want more of it. And it sets them up to be more willing to interact socially with their peers and other people around them. I’ve also seen like an increase in ability to communicate. A better understanding of emotions and how to handle them. Empathy for other people. We’ve seen increased school attendance because they can’t be in the show unless they’re at school every day. There’s improved behavior during the school day and some teachers have even reported that their academics have improved once they’ve started the show. I don’t know. I think there’s something about a student knowing that that they’re seen and they’re needed and they’re valued and they’re loved that kind of affects all aspects of their life.
Wendy: There’s actually some pretty good research out there that shows that when students are involved in extracurricular activities or somehow connected to a community at school, it actually does have a really positive impact on their academics. So I’m not surprised that teachers would be reporting that because I think there’s pretty good research about that. So what are all of the musicals since Provost that you’ve done that you’ve been in? You know, maybe just share a couple of really great memories. Kirsti brought up something really interesting about being vulnerable. So something where a musical or production has made you really stretch and what did you learn from that and how has that kind of carried over into other parts of your life?
Claire: Perfect. I love how you ask this question. So, in middle school, my seventh grade year, I transferred over to Dixon Middle School, which is on the opposite side of the boundaries from my elementary school. So, I went there knowing not a lot of people. And I auditioned for the show. Again, for the reason to make more friends, um, because I needed that at the time. I didn’t have a lot of friends, and I wanted to meet more people, so I auditioned for the show. The show was Cinderella, Rogers and Hammerstein’s.
Claire: Junior, and I ended up getting one of the stepsisters, which was such a big opportunity for me, and during that I bonded with so many people there, and after that I was just like I know that I can do so much with the power that I have with whatever role you get, or if you’re there for like the shortest amount of time, you can still help other people no matter what you do. And so after that, I decided to do stuff at the Scera, and just doing that just helped me so much and especially because in youth theater it can be very competitive with people and I love
Wendy: I would believe that Yeah,
Claire: I Love to go to the auditions and just meet all the kids there and say like you did so good like your audition was so good and especially if they feel like they had doubt about what they did they still put themselves out there to be in this show, they still did what they wanted to do, like they’re following their heart and doing theater, and that is such a big thing for them to do. And I love to remind people about that.
Wendy: I think you’re bringing up something really important here is that part of that vulnerability means. I’m willing to sometimes audition for something and not be chosen or at least not. Maybe I won’t get the part that I had hoped that I would but to your point, making the very best of that experience and drawing in all that you could learn from that, that’s a really important skill for our kids to learn. And for adults, too. Let’s be real. Our adults need that, too.
Kirsti: We talk about that a lot at our first cast meeting about… Why I chose who I did and how to deal with those emotions because it’s natural to be jealous or to be a little bit sad or angry and that is okay, that is okay to feel that, but what matters is how you follow up with it. Like, what are your actions saying about you after that fact?
Wendy: And I think sometimes we, at least I know with my own children, you want to swoop in and kind of save them from the disappointment, but actually, it helps them to learn how to progress through that, right? Like you grow so much from that process and watching even your child and helping them manage those emotions tied to that. So, I really appreciate that you guys are bringing those things up. Kirsti, what other musicals have you done besides the ones that Claire has been involved with?
Kirsti: Well, I usually choose musicals no one’s ever heard of before or seen. And I mostly do this because there is nothing for students to compare themselves to.
Wendy: That’s smart.
Kirsti: So it’s brand new, they don’t have to feel like they have to perform a certain way, or live up to some kind of expectations. And I choose shows that are made specifically for kids. So besides Bots, we’ve done one called Dream that I wrote, Giants in the Sky, and then Grunch. So this year is my seventh musical at Provost.
Wendy: And do you usually write them?
Kirsti: No, I only wrote that one.
Wendy: Okay. I was like, wow. I can’t imagine doing all of the things you’re doing and in addition, now you’re writing a musical and directing. Okay, that makes me feel a little bit better. So Kirsti, tell us about one of your favorite experiences doing a Provost musical.
Kirsti: It was the year we just came back from COVID and we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to do a show, which is why I wrote a show, the show called Dream, because I wanted to be able to rehearse it in small groups if we could get the approval to do it. And we got that approval in January, so we started our rehearsals kind of later on in the year and performed at the very end. But the entire show was about keeping our hopes and dreams alive when things got tough. And so during the course of our rehearsals, we would talk as a cast about what that meant to the students, what their dreams were, what their hopes were. And when it came time to perform, they kind of decided that they wanted to dedicate the show to their teachers and to their families because those were the people that they felt were helping them make their dreams a reality. So during the last number, the entire cast went out into the audience, so they surrounded the entire audience with LED candles and they sang the song, You Will Be Found from the musical Dear Evan Hansen. And the emotion in that room was tangible. It’s something I’ll never forget. Parents were crying, the cast was crying, and the next day when we had our cast meeting and we talked about it, several of the students mentioned that they had no idea that they could influence people in that way. That they could be impactful and make a difference. And so seeing them come to understand that their actions and the things they did and their willingness to be vulnerable and share their hearts with other people could make a positive difference in the world. I think that’s something that was huge for me as well, and kind of changed my life and how I interacted with them and the things that I want for them as well,
Wendy: Especially coming out of covid that there’s a lot of emotion, right? When you weren’t able to perform or be in groups or things like that, then that’s very powerful. Claire, tell us a little bit about what are some of the skills that you’ve picked up from theater that you use every day? That you can say, wow, this has, this has really changed like how I do things or really helped me in this way.
Claire: Last year, I was in student government at Provo High. We held a farmer’s market and it started raining really hard. And… I had to go up to every vendor and be like, you guys can stay or you guys can go inside. Um, just thank you so much for coming. Um, we really appreciated everything that you’ve done. You can decide what you want to do. If you have any questions, please ask me or go to like these people. And I did that to over 80 vendors that were there. After that, it really helped a lot of them because a lot of them did move inside. So that was like one of the situations that I had where I was just like, okay, let’s go. We have to do this.
Wendy: So it’s helped you with like in the moment problem solving skills because you have to do that as things come up, right? Because not everything’s gonna go in a show exactly as you want it to, so you’ve got to be able to improvise as you go, so that’s awesome. Kirsti, what is your process for choosing a show and then casting the show?
Kirsti: Well, as soon as our last musical ends, I tend to scour the internet for anything new that was written that year. And I’m looking for shows that have a lot of opportunities for my students. So a lot of speaking parts, a lot of vocal solos, a lot of dance solos, anything that we can use to spotlight as many students as possible to give them their chance to shine.
And then I usually end up contacting the company to see if they will allow me to change things and tailor it to meet our needs of whatever our students might need. And then honestly, casting a show is probably the hardest part of putting on a show because I feel like every student could play any role and do fantastic at it and be fabulous.
So what I do is I just start plugging in names as soon as auditions are over. I start plugging in their names to the different roles and then I listen to the show again with them in mind as that character and if it doesn’t feel right. I move them around. And I’m really looking for roles that will stretch them. So often I don’t cast shows the way other people might think they should be cast because my main motivation in doing theater is to challenge these students.
So a lot of the time, my more anxious and shy and struggling socially kids are the ones that get the leads. And then they do absolutely phenomenal and they come out of their shells and it makes a huge difference. That doesn’t always happen, but it has happened quite frequently. And I used to be terrified when that would happen at the beginning, but by the end… I knew that was the right decision to make. So I get really excited for them now because I know what they’re going to experience. And often my only regret when doing a show is that I wish that the audience could see where we started when we first began to where we ended when the kids are performing.
Wendy: Yes. So I think that’s really important what you’re talking about in terms of finding ways to stretch students rather than just picking what fits them. They’re not gonna grow from that, right? It has to really challenge them and then in so doing it also is helping them see themselves kind of in a different way. I think that’s a very unique way to look at it and probably really great and why we see so much success coming out of your musical.
Kirsti: And especially for their first theater experience.I want it to be something magical for them and something that they enjoy, you know, and we try and make it fun and the kids know because I’ve been doing this long enough now that the kids know that that’s kind of how I cast a show. So if they don’t get a lead we haven’t had any gossiping behind people’s back or people talking bad because they know that I felt that student needed it more than them at the moment.
So it cuts down a lot on the pettiness and on the jealousy and it, they go, Oh, they need it for some reason. What can I do to help them instead?
Wendy: That’s a really great way to also build that community. Uh, what can you tell me about this year’s musical, Kirsti?
Kirsti: I’m super excited about this year’s musical. I can’t actually tell you what it is because we haven’t announced it yet. We’re going to announce it at our next assembly on November 4th – I think that’s what it is. And then our auditions will be November 17th. So none of the kids know. We keep it a big secret until that point. But I can tell you that me and my assistant director spent the summer reworking the show. We contacted the company. Um, there’s 72 parts in it.
Wendy: Wow. A lot.
Kirsti: Yeah. About 40 speaking parts. Some kids don’t want speaking parts their first time doing it. So we always give them that option. And then we try and encourage them as they get older to try, maybe try one line of speaking, maybe try a small solo as they get older.
The show is about a girl who faces her fears of moving forward. She’s really scared of the unknown and, and making progress. She wants everything to stay the same because that’s where it’s comfortable. And when I read this show, it really resonated with me because I think a lot of times, we feel this in our society. We don’t know what’s going to happen. And these kids don’t know what tomorrow holds and it can be scary to move forward. But throughout the show, the character finds that she has all this support system amongst her friends and people that she didn’t even know before that are rooting for her until she takes one small moment… she has one small brave moment where she takes that step forward in order to conquer that fear. And that’s all she needs to move on.
Wendy: That sounds like an incredible musical. I’m looking forward to that. So Claire, in closing, um, tell me what you’re excited to work on in the next few years with musicals. Like if you could think of like a dream musical that you would want to be a part of, what would it be and why?
Claire: Yes, so recently I got accepted into a group called Acting Up at the Scera Theatre, and basically we go to California and do this competition called MTCA. And throughout the years, they are like first place winners, there’s like trophies when you go up into the theater and stuff, and this year, I’m going to be a part of that and I’m so excited. And also just my high school career, like doing theater there. Like I’m doing Hunchback of Notre Dame at Timpview right now, and it is going so amazing and I am just loving it so much. So that’s what I’m excited for.
Wendy: It sounds like you have a ton to look forward to, and it sounds like Kirsti played a huge role in getting you introduced to this. So, thank you, both of you, for being on our show today. This was amazing. I had no idea that all of this was taking place, and it’s just exciting to see all of the great work that you’re doing at Provost.
Kirsti: Well, you’re invited to come see our show in March.
Wendy: Oh, I will definitely be there.
Kirsti: March 21st, 22nd, 23rd. It’s free for whoever wants to come see it.
Wendy: I’m definitely going to be there.
Kirsti: The kids would love it.
Wendy: Well, I’ve already been invited, I think, by two of Mr. Sprunger’s sixth grade students.
Kirsti: Oh, fabulous.
Wendy: I think I already have it on my calendar.
Wendy: So I’m excited. And Claire, I would love to receive an invitation to your shows at Timpview as well.
Claire: Oh, of course.
Wendy: So I hope you’ll let me know when those are taking place too. Thank you again. And thank you everybody for joining us, uh, as we explored the musical at Provost Elementary.
Thank you everyone for joining me for this episode of What’s Up With The Sup. As always, all episodes will be available wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any topics or questions you would like us to discuss on the podcast, please email us at email@example.com.
And don’t forget to join us next week. I will be joined by Lucy Ordaz, a FACS and Food Sciences teacher at Dixon Middle School. FACS, by the way, stands for Family and Consumer Science, in case you were wondering. She is also the coordinator of the Latinos in Action program at Dixon Middle School. I will also talk to a few students currently involved in the Latinos in Action program.
We will be discussing Hispanic Heritage Month and how these guests strive to share and promote their heritage and how the Latinos in Action program helps them become better leaders and scholars. See you next time.