Exposure to the theater brought by Pinkston alum

Dec. 17, 2013 @ 09:42 PM

Antonio de Graffenreaidt cut down the tree for Pinkston Street Elementary’s holiday show himself.

“I wanted the most Charlie Brown Christmas tree I could find,” said de Graffenreaidt, who directed Tuesday’s show performed by the Rainbow Connection after-school program.

The tree, with thinning needles and crooked branches, fit the theme of the show telling the story of lonely children spending Christmas at an orphanage.

Hundreds of parents gathered in the Pinkston Street multi-purpose room Tuesday night to watch their children sing Christmas carols and perform the show they had rehearsed for weeks.

“I’ve never seen them practice so hard for something,” said Weston Pearson, the Pinkston Street physical education teacher. “This is something for them to be proud of and for their parents to be proud of. They worked really hard at it.”

Pearson said the play is a chance for them to participate in something new. Many of the students have never performed in theater.

De Graffenreaidt, who attended Pinkston 20 years ago, said he was motivated to come back and help with the play because he knew it would be positive exposure for the kids.

“That was the most rewarding part for me, was to give them this opportunity that they never had,” said de Graffenreaidt, who now works as a filmmaker in Los Angeles. “My whole purpose was not to show them how to act, it was to show them something they haven’t been exposed to.”

De Graffenreaidt wrote the play especially for this occasion.

“I wrote the characters based on the students’ personalities because I knew we wouldn’t have much time to rehearse,” he said. “The idea for the orphanage just made sense for a cast of all children.”

During practice, de Graffenreaidt said the kids stayed focused on the task at hand.

“I saw a lot of students holding their peers accountable for their lines and their behavior,” he said.

Pinkston Street Principal Heddie Somerville said the students have been looking forward to the play since they started practicing in November.

“They were talking about it at lunch,” she said. “They were all really excited about it.”

She said she was impressed with the way her students took the play seriously.

“They learned all their lines on their own, it was all done on their own after school,” she said.

Somerville said she hoped the play would reinforce a message of gratitude and appreciation for her students.

At one point in the play, the children get caught up bickering, and one boy reminds the rest of them to recognize the good that exists: “We have to look at what we do have and that’s each other,” he said.

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.