Showtime on the elementary school stage

The opening act École Cathédrale’s presentation of Aladdin, which runs on the evenings of Wednesday, Apr. 10 and Thursday, Apr. 11, 2019. Photo by Bill Gowsell.


It’s that time of year again when, families will gather into school gyms, and sit on those plastic chairs that are pulled out from underneath a dark and dingy storage caddy, to watch the youngest of their family perform on stage. It’s elementary school play season.

For the last seven months I have been an observer to the madness that goes into the staging of these Broadway-based plays for the elementary school scene. My wife, who is organizing a school play with two of her colleagues at École Catholique Cathédrale, has spent the last four months actively working at after-school rehearsals, diligently making costumes and props at night, and incessantly bugging me about whether the latest creation looks good. The answer is always YES!

I have watched as meetings have been staged around our kitchen table on Sunday afternoons, talking about the to-do list and who would accomplish what for this week, while balancing that out with their responsibilities of everyday teaching.

Planning for what is about to end this week in a flurry of song and dance began last August as my wife and her two co-directors sat down at our kitchen table and started talking about the logistics of what they would need for the year. They mapped out their tryout schedules in the fall, went through the heartache of choosing who was best for which role, and then began working to bring the cast together to tell the story of Aladdin.

The core cast of 12 main actors would spend hours each week after school rehearsing with my wife and her co-directors. To top that off, a chorus of students would be assembled to help bring atmosphere to the stage so that it looks like the markets of Agrabah and not just an elementary school stage.

As January slipped into February, and the dark nights of winter took over the city, my wife and her co-directors started building and painting sets, made endless shopping trips to look for more props, and started their Saturday practices with the students. That’s right, students and teachers went to school on Saturday to practice their play.

When March crept in to take February’s spot, the process of involving all students in the school from Senior Kindergarten and up began. My wife and her co-directors orchestrated numbers to include the youngest of the school in this lavish production. With the main cast, the crew, the chorus, and the supporting numbers from the younger grades, over sixty kids will be involved in bringing Aladdin alive on stage at École Cathédrale.

The ‘Cave of Wonders’ scene from École Cathédrale’s presentation of Aladdin, which runs on the evenings of Wednesday, Apr. 10 and Thursday, Apr. 11, 2019. Photo by Bill Gowsell.


Watching from the sidelines, I heard about every decision made, judged many costumes and props, and watched as my wife and her co-directors worked tirelessly to bring this play to life. I even got drafted to come in one Saturday to help build the frame for the magic carpet.

It was led by my wife and her co-directors, but they were supported by colleagues who would offer their support at crafting nights, pick up extra duties during the weeks leading up to the show, offer to sell tickets or run a canteen, and volunteer time on the weekends when needed. My wife and her co-directors also had parents coming in to volunteer their time, and support from their administrator, caretaker, and parent council.

This week, the hard work that has been put in will end after Thursday’s performance of Aladdin, but there will be countless school plays happening in the next few weeks throughout Kingston. No doubt you will drive by École Cathédrale this Wednesday and Thursday and see a line up of people on the sidewalk. We are there to see a show and will enjoy every minute of it.

To my wife and her colleagues: Congratulations on your hard work and commitment. It will be a moment that the students will remember forever. To the unknown teachers out there who are struggling to make magic happen on your school stage: Keep the faith, carry on, and it will work out brilliantly. As an observer watching the amount of work needed to make a school play a success, I am in awe of the responsibility undertaken, and the wonder that is brought into the lives of the students.

For the audience that will be sitting in gymnasiums for the next few weeks: Sit back, relax, enjoy the show. Take as many pictures and video as possible, and enjoy the grand spectacle that you are about to see.


Bill Gowsell was born and raised in Kingston. With an interest in history, food, wine, and all things Disney, Bill has been writing for the last eight years on a variety of topics. During the summers he can be found at the family cottage north of Kingston, or at the bottom of Lake Ontario… scuba diving.

Bill Gowsell

Bill has been an elementary school teacher for the last 12 years. His passion for writing includes a wide variety of interests, from history, food, pop culture, and anything to do with Disney. Recently he published his second book, Extra Magic Days: Thirty Years of Walt Disney World Vacations. Learn more about Bill...

2 thoughts on “Showtime on the elementary school stage

  • As a high school teacher and musical theatre director, I really could appreciate the “behind the scenes” account of all it takes to mount a production! Usually the audiences have NO idea of the hundreds of hours outside of the regular classroom that it takes. My own children will be performing in their own elementary school’s musical in a couple of weeks and it’s so exciting to see how much joy this brings to them and the entire school community. Bravo to all of our elementary teachers for inspiring our kids in the arts!

Leave a Reply

You cannot copy content from this page, please share the link instead!