FRESNO, California - Dan and Laurie Pessano have staged countless productions for valley residents. One of their latest projects not only introduced theater to thousands of young people, but showed history in a different light.
On stage actors perform--stage hands hustle to change the set, backstage a flurry of activity and changing of costumes, the elements of a live theater production
The actors on stage, the best of the Good Company players performing an original production written by Laurie and Dan Pessano, not for the general public but for 6,000 Fresno Unified 5th graders.
"Through a generous gift from Francine and Murry Farber a couple of years ago we were able to partner with Dan and Laurie Pessano of Good Company Players to develop a professional theater experience for all of our 5th graders," said
Catherine Aujero with Fresno Unified.
So when students filed into the performing arts theater at Roosevelt High School their participation was part of Fresno Unified's and Fresno County's commitment to provide all children with an arts rich education
In this case the original play "Founding Fathers and Mothers" also integrated 5th grade social studies…history with a Pessano twist.
"I just started researching he people who had contributed who of course you can't cover and I discovered so many people that kid's don't learn about," said playwright Laurie Pessano.
In writing this play, Pessano, made sure people who had a role in forming the United States of America, but were often left out of history books, were included.
She wanted them to know about Crispus Attucks, a black man who was the first casualty of the American Revolution and Molly Hays who fought along side her husband in the Revolutionary War.
"And so it's just magical for me because I think the power of imagination, the power of communication, the power of a whole bunch of people coming together to hear someone's ideas and listen and learning to listen."
And the students were listening, you could see it on their faces, they paid attention to the actors on stage.
"What made it interesting is that how all the different characters just came along and they acted out what actually happened," said Norseman Elementary student Jewelissa Supia.
The learning didn't stop with the theater experience, back in class there was a lot of discussion.
Mark Hernandez, the teacher of this 5th grade class at Norseman Elementary in east Fresno, says the visual impact of the play added to his classroom instruction.
"Reading quotes and speeches of historical figures in a book is not the same as hearing an actor present that and portray that in person," stated Hernandez.
It also gave many of these students a better understanding and appreciation of theater, arts, and drama
It does because it shows the dedication the actors have for the audience and I just want to support more of that now because they really do put time and effort into what they do," mentioned Jewelissa.