Westwood Intermediate and Middle School Spanish students will explore the world of “The Jungle Book” at 7 p.m. Friday, May 7, and 2 p.m. Saturday, May 8, in the school’s third annual Spanish-English bilingual play.
Based on the collection of seven stories by the English author Rudyard Kipling, it tells the tale of the orphaned boy, or “man-cub,” Mowgli (Clara Berendes), who is raised in the jungle by wolves in India. He eventually leaves the wolves but vows to return when he has defeated the tiger Shere Khan (Ella Oftos).
“People should come see this show to see the original story by Rudyard Kipling in action,” said sixth-grade Spanish immersion teacher Laura Peña-Kennedy, who is the director of “The Jungle Book.” “It’s not like the Disney film and has a different ending.”
Clara Berendes said her favorite part about playing Mowgli was she not only got to perform in Spanish, but also got to speak “animal languages” to the animal characters.
“I’m the only person, so I’m talking to animals in their tongue,” she said. “I also like how Mowgli feels and how he feels so strongly about being with his family of wolves, and when he can’t do that it takes away him.”
The cast members who play animals include Ian Aalund (Lobo/Akela), Heidi Ingebritson (Loba), Maizy Johnson (Tabaqui), Baloo (Henry Brady), Berkely Johnson (Buldeo), Ania Becker (Kaa), Ellie Harty (Narrator), Erin Tschida (Rann), Liam Nelson (Translator), Erin Tschida (Messua), Reese Hardy (Bagheera), Hadley Goochey (Burrito), Michael Cobbs (Monito) and Hadley Goochey (Grey Brother).
Ian Aalund (Lobo/Akela) said “The Jungle Book” teaches the meaning of family and where you can find it. “Your family isn’t defined by blood,” he said.
Aalund said the show is good for the whole family because there are plenty of funny parts little kids will enjoy and “older people will also be able to reenact their childhood because it’s an older story.”
Peña-Kennedy not only directed the play, but she also wrote and translated “The Jungle Book” stories into a bilingual play.
The bilingual play will be narrated in English, performed in Spanish.
“This play really helps our Spanish immersion students’ fluency, because when they read and perform plays in Spanish, they really need to focus on tone,” Peña-Kennedy said. “Performing also helps students increase their vocabulary skills, because there are words in this play that they normally wouldn’t learn in a classroom.”
“The Jungle Book” crew includes Violet Kuempel, Emily Kaneko, Aubrey Nelson, Cece Gomez, Aremy Garcia and Jenna Faymoville.
This is eighth-grader Cece Gomez’s first bilingual production at Westwood. She recruited a number of her friends to participate in the show as both cast and crew.
“I really wanted to do this because I thought it would be interesting and I’ve never really done a play before,” she said. “I don’t really act, so I thought stage crew would be more my speed.”
The stage crew is making three sets, one for each act.
“The fun part is that we get to draw and paint a bunch of stuff and we get to help out when the play is happening, but it was a little challenging to make some of the sets because we had to eyeball it,” Gomez said. “It’s going to be super different from other plays because everything we’ve done so far has been hand made.”
Due to COVID-19, “The Jungle Book” is being performed outside on the south lawn at Westwood Intermediate and Middle School, which is located at 711 91st Ave. NE, Blaine. The event will be socially distanced and all attendees will be required to wear masks.
“There have been multiple challenges with this show given COVID,” Peña-Kennedy said. “First of all we’ve had to adjust our sets because we have to factor in the space that is required in between each student. ... We’ve really had to think about how we’re going to deliver this play.”
Most of the cast members are playing animal characters, so they’re wearing animal-themed face masks. Reese Hardy (Bagheera) said this made it difficult to act.
“We also have to talk louder than normal to get to the audience,” added Berendes
“Facial expressions are usually a huge thing, and you can’t really show that,” Hardy said. “I encourage people to come see this show because we’re one of the only English-Spanish bilingual plays in the state.”
Tickets are free, but a $5 donation is recommended. Attendees are encouraged to bring a chair or blanket for the performances. To register for tickets, visit tinyurl.com/rpyhhmhj.