Matthew Henson students ‘star’ in their own Christmas Story
Ursula V. Battle | 12/16/2016, 6 a.m.
BALTIMORE Thomas Burk, a teacher at Matthew Henson Elementary School gave his second-grade students an assignment.
“We read the book ‘Cinderella,’ said Burk. “Through the Hippodrome Foundation, the students also went to see a musical version of Cinderella at the Hippodrome. They would later have to compare the similarities between the book and the play versions of Cinderella using a Venn diagram.”
Burk would later email Olive Waxter, executive director of the Hippodrome Foundation, expressing his gratitude toher for providing an opportunity for his students to see the show.
“Mr. Burk followed-up by sending a very sweet appreciative email the same day they attended the matinee performance of Cinderella,” recalled Waxter. “In the email, Mr. Burk told me how much it meant to the students to come to the Hippodrome to see the show. For Mr. Burk to take the time to send that email, meant a lot to me.”
What followed was a real life “Christmas Story.” Burk and his class were invited to the Hippodrome for a special workshop on December 8, 2016.
During the workshop, Burk and his students had the opportunity to meet some of the cast members from “A Christmas Story, The Musical.” The hit Broadway show played at the Hippodrome December 6-11, 2016. The students were also taught a song and dance routine for “When You're a Wimp,” and were taken on a backstage tour. The workshop concluded with a Q&A session.
“To me, Mr. Burk is a hero,” said Waxter. “This guy really nailed it. Hats off to Mr. Burk and his class. I wanted the students to know that when you do a good job it goes a long way. I said, ‘let’s do something for them during the run of A Christmas Story, The Musical.’”
She added, “This is all about kids doing great things, and a teacher who cares. This is exactly the type of school the Hippodrome Foundation loves to partner with.”
The Hippodrome Foundation, Inc. (HFI) is a non-profit organization established in Baltimore in 1976. The mission of HFI, in addition to presenting the Broadway series at the Hippodrome, is to maximize community access to the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, and through free outreach and education programs, increase understanding and appreciation of all aspects of theater.
“We do programs all year long to provide access to the Hippodrome theatre,” said Waxter. “We give students free programs that are connected to our Broadway series, which is especially exciting. The kids can really feel the warmth when they come here. We are always happy to share the building with the community.”
The workshop received “rave reviews” from the students.
“Amazing!,” said seven-year-old Derrick, pointing out that he wants to be a dancer and go to college to be an artist. “This was the best day ever. I liked everything about it, especially the singing and dancing.”
Eight-year-old Adrionna, also gave the outing ‘two thumbs up.’
“My favorite part was when we were on stage looking at the house,” said the second-grader who wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. “That was a lot of fun.”
Barb Wirsing is the education director for the Hippodrome Foundation.
“It is our belief that theatre can be life changing,” she said. “Matthew Henson Elementary School has done such
incredible work. This was a great way to reward them for all of their hard work. Not many people get the opportunity to experience a backstage tour of a Broadway show.”
Burk, whose efforts received a rousing “standing ovation” from the Hippodrome Foundation, was elated about the “Happy Ending.”
“I am always theatrical in some way when I read, and always tell my students to use their imagination,” said Burk who also serves as House Manager for the Hippodrome.” “I also tell them that education can take them anywhere they want to go. The invitation to bring the students here for this workshop was such a wonderful opportunity.”
Burk who has been teaching since 2003 added, “I have high expectations of my students, and like to push them to their limits. The kids might think I’m mean, but I mean business when it comes to learning.”
For more information about the Hippodrome Foundation, visit http://www.hippodromefoundation.org.