DINGMANS FERRY -  There are lessons to be learned through performance. That concept is something Ruth Schneck instills in every play she directs at Dingman Delaware Middle School. This year is no different with the upcoming production of Willy Wonka Jr.

Through Schneck’s latest production, she incorporates the seven deadly sins, with each character demonstrating a sin through their behavior. The reason for this approach, Schenck explained is that she believes society can relate to the show. Through the main cast, each character offers “various elements” with Verruca the “spoiled brat” presenting gluttony and another “Mike TV” who lives for his games. The winner of all, is Charlie who is honest and hardworking with a tough background.

The reason for this plot, Schneck said Charlie is able to find the positive in everything. With the various “extremes” offered through the main characters, a point is made that honesty is important and if the appropriate behavior is followed, then Charlie will go on to meet Willy Wonka and have the chocolate factory.

Incorporating these concepts into a middle school play, Schneck acknowledged that the students may not realize the message today, but she talks to them and hopes, someday they will realize their performances had more of a purpose.

For all of the leads, this was their first time performing in a DDMS show. Landon Fucetoli will be making his stage debut as Charlie because he wanted to “try something new” he said. While eighth grader Adara Alexander was encouraged by her friends since she is “flamboyant” and doesn’t fear the stage she said. Being Wonka, Alexander doesn’t believe to be a challenge since they have similar personalities that entail being funny and their own persons.

Fucetoli actually feels he is similar to Charlie, so the greatest challenge he has experienced is learning how to perform on stage.

Alexander said she wanted to be Wonka because that is who she is, since the character is loud and although there is a “vibe” that he is “evil,” she believes he “lives and breathes for the children’s happiness.” Trying to portray Wonka, that is both easy and hard, because of how Wonka appears to be, but is really.

Corey Muren, who is in the eighth grade will his stage debut as Grandpa Joe. Originally, Muren said he thought being such a character would be a task, but after practicing for a while he has realized that they are similar.

With special effects, that include an inflatable fat suit, each performer said the show is going to be great, because the show reflects the latest Hollywood edition, but Schneck’s twists make Willy Wonka Jr. its own.

Initially, Muren said he thought performing would be more difficult, but he has learned that although he knew what Schneck was like in the classroom, her animations and dedication has made his first performance interesting.

Alexander too, said she originally had “mixed reviews” about performing because of the feedback she received from others. She learned however, that with Schneck’s guidance and what it was like to be on stage, she’s ready for her next show.  

Muren said the characters in Willy Wonka Jr. are special because of their “big personalities” who have their own “stage presence” that the show doesn’t seem like a performance, but instead reality.

Whereas Alexander said for those who attend, they will “always be kept on their feet” since something is happening all of the time and the students put their “blood, sweat and tears” in the production.  

Dakota Jordan, also known as the Candy Apple, will be a character Schneck created. As Candy Apple, Jordan said she is a narrator who sells candy to the kids and assists Charlie. Whereas Giavanna Scimeca will be Caramel Apple. A first play for both apples, Jordan said thus far just rehearsing has been fun because she is able to “express” herself. Whereas Scimeca enjoys singing and acting as it makes her “happy.”

The two sixth graders each had different thoughts on going on stage, in part because Scimeca has danced on stage, but Jordan said she expected the experience to be “nerve-wracking.” She soon realized however, with practice comes realization that it’s not that bad.

A member of the stage crew and cast, Sasha Crawford who is in the eighth grade said she likes being on the crew because it allows her to take part in putting the show together and learning more about the show overall. While high school students help build the set, Crawford was excited to paper mâché a candy cane.

A week before the curtain opens, Schneck said things were a little behind, in part because there was a lot of learning going on, since a majority of the kids involved were sixth graders and had never been on stage before so they had to learn the “rhythm” yet.

Schneck said she chose Willy Wonka Jr. this fall because she feels society has gotten away from the “true morality” of people and is overindulged in the “technology world” so people aren’t connecting with others and she sees this, with the students she teaches. Instead, she feels the students need to realize they can have an “impact” on others and have a “chance to make a difference.”   

There are various parts of the show that Schneck said she likes, but her favorite is the song “Cheer up Charlie” because of the message that no matter, a person must “keep going.” As well, the special effects are quite entertaining too.

Schneck acknowledged that the students believe their greatest challenge will be memorizing their lines, but the truth is that she hopes they grow through their involvement and learn who their characters actually are and why they behave how they do. Instead of focusing on perfecting their lines, Schneck wants the students to understand the character.

Working with the stage crew, who are also relatively new this year, Schneck said they are working hard and she is teaching them the basics, but the show will come together as the crew discovers their hidden talents as they continue to try.

A dinner theater will be held for senior citizens on Friday, November 9 at 5 p.m. There is also a performance (play only) for the general public, Saturday, November 10 at 7 p.m, at the Dingman Delaware Middle School on Route 739.