Johnston, IA – On May 1, a cast of characters will take the stage in the Johnston High School auditorium for a performance unlike any other on earth.
“MOONGIRL” is an adapted play from the book “Moonboy” by Carolyn Grace Garcia. The story highlights the journey of MOONGIRL, played by JHS senior Eilise Murray, as she travels from her home on the moon to Earth. Once on Earth, she finds others judge her by appearances until one person decides to find out who she really is. Soon, the townspeople realize MOONGIRL’S physical features have very little to do with her character.
“The story of ‘Moonboy’ has many parallels to our students who live life with disabilities,” said Heath Pattschull, a special education teacher at JHS and director of the MOONGIRL play. “Our students want to be part of the high school community and this play is really a big step for them in doing that.”
Students in the JHS special education program teamed up with their peers in the Best Buddies club to work together on the play. JHS senior Sydney Ginkens is one of the Best Buddies captains, a peer leader who plans events and pairs buddies with peers. And while you won’t see Ginkens on the stage, she plays a major role in the MOONGIRL production.
“I started my senior year with a vision that Johnston High School would be changed by something positive,” Ginkens said. “I didn’t know at the time it would be a play with Best Buddies, but when the opportunity came up, I had to say yes. I’m so excited to see this all come together and think it will have a big impact on the entire Johnston community.”
When the curtains go up on May 1, Pattschull said audiences will see nearly eight months of hard work on display. Pattschull explained many of the concepts taught in his Experience Based Career Education (EBCE) class had significant crossover to the play, such as lessons in budgeting, problem-solving, creativity, and confidence. Students in his class, along with their peer buddies, created all the artwork for the play, handled play publicity and marketing, and worked together to learn lines and staging.
“Some of the students are good readers, some are very creative, and others wanted to work behind the scenes,” said Pattschull. “As a group, we looked at each other’s strengths and utilized them. The idea for my class, and now this play, is to help these young adults become confident members of a community.”
Ginkens said much of what happens in the “Moonboy” book, such as stereotyping and fear of the unknown, are common in a high school community for students of all abilities.
“After reading ‘Moonboy’ and putting our play into action, I can see that no matter who the student is, we all have insecurities and need others to welcome us into a community,” Ginkens said. “I feel like Johnston has something special where there are families and students open to challenging the norm and sharing their stories with others. I hope everyone has a chance to see the value in all students through this play.”
Pattschull, Ginkens, and the other 40+ cast and crew members have spent many hours on the play and are optimistic for the community’s response to this new-age production.
“You can just see the pride the students have in the play,” said Pattschull. “This has been one of the most unique student challenges I’ve been a part of since starting at Johnston. I think everyone – student, community member, parents – would benefit from seeing these students put their everything on display as part of ‘MOONGIRL’.”
MOONGIRL will have one production on Friday, May 1 at 7 p.m. in the Johnston High School Auditorium. Tickets are $5 and will be available at the door, in advance at the JHS accounting office, or online here https://www.greateventseats.com/events.php?lID=103 . A pre-play bake sale will be held in the JHS commons area at 6:30, with proceeds benefitting the Dragon Art account, which funds supplies and projects for the EBCE class.