The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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May 29, 2014

Green Isle school tradition honors elders with stage musicals

Green Isle school tradition honors elders with stage musicals

Though 1,800 seconds is hardly enough time to tell someone's life story, students of Green Isle Community School will attempt to do just that on Friday.

The school's annual Elders Celebration — which is believed to be one-of-a-kind statewide — centers around a pair of 30-minute musicals wholly derived from the lives of two community members. The citizens are chosen by school staff and interviewed by students. Interview materials are then handed off to area playwrights and artists for manuscripts and original music.

Students begin rehearsing their lines in March and, by May, are ready to perform for what has always been a standing room-only crowd.

"It's really amazing to see the students work on it," said kindergarten teacher Terry Kroehler, who oversees the celebration but is quick to point out that everyone at the small, public charter school plays a role in the project. "And then, on the night of the performance, to see how the elders and the community react is so heartwarming."

Though school officials don't like to divulge too many details — to avoid spoilers, of course — the elders are Elmer Grams and Dan Vos. According to the school's Facebook page, Vos has been a community supporter through his business, Vos Construction, while Grams is a WWII vet who spent time in a POW camp. The playwrights were Joeleen Osborn Krier of Madelia and Greg Abbott of North Mankato while fellow playwright Tom Barna of Eagle Lake provided lyrics for Tara Jungclaus' original musical compositions.

Though the K-6 school has an enrollment that hovers in the 75-student range, all of them are involved in the production and must learn each of the six songs (three per play).

Barna, who publishes under the pseudonym tdbarna, said he and the other artists sat in on the interviews and found more than enough material to entertain an audience.

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