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Whodunit at Memorial?

Memorial Fourth Graders perform in the premiere of Mystery on the U.S.S. Memorial; All Aboard: Under Suspicion. The play was written and performed by the entire fourth grade with the assistance of author and journalist, Steve Krasner.

Hundreds of family members came out to see "whodunit" when the 4th Grade students at Memorial Elementary school presented their Mystery Dinner Theater - Mystery on the U.S.S. Memorial; All Aboard: Under Suspicion on April 11.

Thanks to the efforts of Memorial parent Julie De Zutter, the school received a $2,300 Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant, "Stars in Residence." The grant funded a Mystery Theater Script Writing Workshop which was conducted by published author and journalist, Steve Krasner. Over a three day period, in early March, Krasner met with each of the fourth grade classes to create the various components of a mystery: the setting, the mystery to be solved, the characters and their individual psychological profiles, dialogue, sound effects, and two different endings. After the script was complete, students and parent volunteers assisted with creating scenery, props and costumes, as well as coordinating the dinner for that evening.

"Writing the script was a three-day process," said De Zutter. "Then the students spent a lot of recesses practicing; their excitement the entire time was contagious." De Zutter said that she was most impressed with the fact that "every single 4th grader from start to finish did something for the play. Not everyone wanted to be on stage but they all helped backstage, with sound effects, with set and prop design, or were the greeters." She also said that the event would not have been possible if it wasn't for the "stellar group of dedicated 4th grade teachers," helping throughout the process.

The play that the students crafted was a mystery aboard a cruise ship, where an auction was about to take place for a $3 million ancient red diamond. There was a cast of interesting characters including the captain and his crew, an auctioneer, a famous rock star and sports hero, a doctor, a politician, a waiter, a chef, and a detective. The detective had his work cut out for him when the ancient red diamond was stolen and the passengers on board did a good deal of finger-pointing at each other. Using their own witty dialog and a good number of play-on-words, the students entertained the audience with two 30 minute plays, which were similar but with slightly different endings. During intermission the audience dined on pizza, salad, and desserts, which were purchased through donations from the students' families.

Fourth grade student Serena Prince, who played a famous singer in the first play, said that it was "very fun" writing the script but that putting on the play was a different story. "I liked it a lot but I was really nervous," she said.

Krasner commented after the plays that they were "awesome." "It is always neat for me to see the students stage the play. They did a great job, and did it in a relatively short period of time which is a credit to the amount of work done by the faculty and staff. It is a lot of fun for them to create this process and also helps to reinforce the curriculum," he said.

Memorial Principal Debra Swain was also very pleased with the event. "I am so proud of the students and staff for the extraordinary work they did on this project," she said. "I had the opportunity to sit in on one of Steve Krasner's workshops with students and the level of participation and excitement was amazing. In my opinion, this is teaching and learning at its best."

Memorial Elementary Fourth Grade Student Daniel DeZutter (a.k.a. the Security Guard) watches over the "ancient red diamond" at the Mystery Dinner Theater - Mystery on the U.S.S. Memorial; All Aboard: Under Suspicion.


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