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‘Beowulf’ delights academy audience

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Performers Donna Weissinger and Judy Myers enrapture an audience of Chesapeake Academy Middle School students with their version of “Beowulf.”

It’s not often kids get to witness the epic poem “Beowulf” enacted by a duo of talented flutists. Making the Old English of Shakespeare not only formidable but downright funny, the production of the heroic tale by national performers Donna Weissinger and Judy Myers enraptured an audience of Chesapeake Academy Middle School students.

With audience participation a key component, traits of courage and honor were brought to life around language arts lessons on alliteration (powerful player of pipes), homophones (knight, night), and kennings (“protector of peace” in place of the word “hero”).

“Beowulf” and its early childhood sister act “The Pied Piper” were the first in the line-up of Chesapeake Academy’s Performing Arts and Lecture Series (PALS) program events for 2008-09. PALS events are designed to bring “big city” enrichment programs to Chesapeake with most open to local elementary schools, preschools, daycare centers, and home-schooling families.

Upcoming PALS events include: “Drumsticks,” a program based on an Asante tale from West Africa by story tellers from the Children’s Museum of Richmond in January; the “Barker of Seville,” an original musical comedy about aspiring dog-faced rod-puppet opera singers from The Blue Sky Puppet Theatre in February; and “Whoo’s Awake at Night” and “You Are What You Eat,” lessons on nocturnal animals and food chains by educators introducing live, non-releasable animals from The Wildlife Center of Virginia in March.

Last month’s production of “Beowulf” was preceded by a similarly hilarious and educational flute-inspired re-enactment of “The Pied Piper.” Weaving a piper’s spell, international flutist Donna Weissinger exposed students from Chesapeake’s early childhood program and Kathy Shearin’s preschool in Reedville to flutes from around the world before encouraging them to take the stage as parading mice and undulating rivers. “Donna and Judy brought to life tales from far away lands in a way that very beautifully combined age-appropriate lessons in science, mathematics, social studies, and language,” noted kindergarten teacher Beth Clark.

For more information, to RSVP to any of the upcoming events (which are filling up fast), or to be added to the academy’s mailing list of invitees, please contact Julia Zimmerman at 438-5575 or

posted 11.26.2008

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