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CMS Theater keeps audience laughing with ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’

Students premiere spring play with a lesson about lessons

The Cortez Middle School Theater premiered “The Phantom Tollbooth,” a play about making learning fun, to a packed auditorium on Friday night.

The play was directed by Angela Gabardi, computer and theater teacher at Cortez Middle School.

According to seventh-grader Ellai Black, the actress behind the main character, Milo, the play is about the adventures of learning.

“Milo goes on a journey throughout the world of numbers and words, and along with Tock and Humbug learns the importance of learning,” Black said.

The students kept a laughing audience along for the ride in Milo’s car with quips throughout the journey.

“Tollbooth” was a fresh turn for the CMS theater, which last produced the musical “Into the Woods Jr.” In “Phantom,” actors felt they could have more fun with their characters.

“We can add so much and do so much with our characters and have a story behind it, and there is a bigger relationship with each character,” said eighth-grader Koral Jackson, who played Kakafonous, Doctor of Dissonance.

“Each character is teaching Milo the same thing.”

To Alison Freeman, a sixth-grader who played Word Merchant, the play had lessons about time.

“What you do with time is what makes it important, and what you do with what you learn is what makes it fun and interesting,” Freeman said.

For the eighth-graders, it was a bittersweet production. They are headed to high school, and many plan to continue to participate in theater.

Mikah Buris, an eighth-grader who plays The Awful Dynne, said he made friends who “actually care.”

Eighth-grader Savannah Story, who was assistant stage manager and map master, said she learned to put herself into her characters during her time at CMS drama.

“Don’t worry about looking stupid in your costume or feeling stupid saying your lines because those lines are written for a reason, and you just kind of have to put yourself into it,” Story said. “You can find yourself by being that character.”

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