Elementary, high school students unite in performance

Anna Haen, Leo Dworsky mentor students at Aquila


Annica Schultz

Sophomore Leo Dworsky models the notes in one of many songs he is teaching to fourth and fifth grade theater kids at Aquila Elementary School, May 9. The students will perform a showcase for parents and community members June 5.

Annica Schultz

Every Thursday afternoon freshman Anna Haen and sophomore Leo Dworsky can be found helping energetic fourth and fifth graders with their singing and dancing, according to Dworsky. Anna Haen said she will teach the young actors techniques to improve their performing.

“More than anything, I am excited to watch the growth with these young performers and be able to work with them on choreography and staging,” Anna Haen said.

Rachel Haen, a kindergarten teacher, theater director and mother of kids in the St. Louis Park School District, is putting the showcase together to help boost the young actors’ confidence as they head off to middle school. Her students have been hard at work preparing for a showcase at Maggie’s Farm Theatre at Lenox Community center. Her theater kids will display the skills they have learned throughout the past school year at 6:00 p.m. June 5.

“I wanted them to get pumped up and feel proud of performing and honestly to give them a little special community within the larger school community,” Rachel Haen said.

According to Rachel Haen, she directed Seussical this past year, the third musical to have ever been put on by students at Aquila. She recruited her daughter and student director of the Aquila Theater Arts musicals, Anna Haen, as well as vocalist Leo Dworsky to assist her in sharpening the theater kids’ choreography, acting, and signing abilities.

“I wanted to do something to continue to let my strong fifth grade boys have an opportunity to perform,” Rachel Haen said. “I think in musical theater especially, there is less boy participation and to let them meet this really fun high school singer who is killing it encourages them to continue to sing.”

Rachel Haen

— I wanted them to get pumped up and feel proud of performing and honestly to give them a little special community within the larger school community.

According to Dworsky, Rachel Haen approached him after one of his performances as Max Detweiler in the high school choir musical, “The Sound of Music.”

“I was really  impressed with his vocal talent in the musical and I went up to him after and the show and told him that I have this great idea to but on the showcase with his help,” Rachel Haen said.

Dworsky said he has been teaching private vocal lessons at A Kopp Music Studios to kids around the same age as the students he is working with at Aquila.

“I agreed to help because I wanted to spend more time with kids than I already do, and I’ve learned to be even more patient which has helped me a lot with my teaching,” Dworsky said.

Anna Haen has seen the fourth and fifth graders grow this past year because of her role as a student director and knows them on a personal level. She said she was able to pick songs she knew fit their vocal abilities the best.

“Watching them grow so much over the past years of performances adds a very unique element in which we get to individually choose the music for each personality as well as vocal and acting strengths, perhaps pushing them to grow in new ways,” Anna Haen said.

One of the many theater kids participating in the showcase, Grant Hudson, a fifth grader at Aquila, says he enjoys coming to rehearsals on Thursday nights and learning new things.

“I love seeing everyone and being able to sing for extra time,” Hudson said. “One of the best things I learned is how to really project my voice and not be nervous.”