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Under the sea

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Mortensen drama club culminates year with ‘The Little Mermaid’

By Deborah Swearingen

Mortensen Elementary School ventured under the sea last week during its drama club’s production of “The Little Mermaid.”

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The Disney musical tells the familiar tale of a young mermaid named Ariel, who falls in love with a human prince and longs to live on land. She then acquires a pair of legs against her father’s will in a deal with Ursula, an evil sea witch.

Laughter filled the halls of Mortensen last Thursday as family and friends packed the school for one of the evening performances. As the curtains drew and the musical began, wisps of blue fabric designed to look like the ocean and handmade coral reefs in bright shades of blue, pink, orange and green brightened the stage.

Susan Corbett, school secretary, helped bring the after-school children’s theater program to the South Jeffco elementary school eight years ago. Since then, she said, it’s grown from a small melodrama to a multi-day production with 30-plus actors and stagehands.

The drama club provides students with insight into the inner workings of the theater.

“We expect a lot of them,” Corbett said. “We ask them to not only learn the lines but learn acting techniques, learn staging. They move the sets. They know how to be a stage crew. … They grow so much.”

Mortensen Elementary has an autism spectrum disorder program, and third-grade teacher Theresa Olson said several of the students in the program participate in the drama club.

“We’re very inclusive,” she said.

“We find a place for everybody,” Corbett added.

The yearlong children’s theater program is designed for students in fourth- through sixth grade. It begins with lessons on dialogue, singing and movement and then transforms into auditions and practice for the selected performance.

But mainly, it’s just a lot of fun for all involved.

“It’s a lot of fun when the audience laughs at you and then people asking for your autograph after the show and stuff,” said 11-year-old Ava Serbinski.

In this year’s production, the sixth-grader played Flounder, Ariel’s brightly colored fish best friend.

Ava said her mother suggested she join the drama club.

“I just get really dramatic at home,” she said with a smile.

Calm before the storm

Before the show, art teacher Deb Brown’s classroom was a madhouse. Thirty-two students zoomed back and forth, adjusting costumes, practicing lines and painting makeup on their faces. Despite an air of nervousness, most were excited for the upcoming performance.

“It feels exciting,” said Elliott Stone, 12. “We’ve worked so hard, and we’ve fine-tuned everything, and now we just get to perform.”

For “The Little Mermaid,” Elliott, a sixth-grader, wore a sparkling red costume in his role as Sebastian, the crustacean tasked with keeping an eye on Ariel.

As Carolyn Kim, 10, waited patiently for someone to help with her makeup, she said she felt nervous but excited.

“This play is really fun for me,” she said. “I like performing in front of other people.”

During the audition process, students read lines and performed songs but did not try out for specific roles. Carolyn was happy to learn she was assigned the lead role of Ariel.

Ava agreed with Carolyn, saying she was excited to learn she would be playing Flounder.

“Flounder was definitely a part I love playing,” she said. “And I feel like Carolyn’s a good fit for Ariel.”

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.