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A Thousand Cranes brings history and hope to the stage at Adams

A Thousand Cranes brings history and hope to the stage at Adams
Students perform in A Thousand Cranes

As theatre students at Adams Middle School put the final touches on their One-Act Play ahead of the upcoming district competition, they are learning much more than theatre skills and are hard at work to fold 1,000 paper cranes.

Adams has chosen to perform A Thousand Cranes (photo album) for the competition, but it’s the connection the students and teachers have made with the show and its true story that make this performance special.

The show presents the story of Sadako Saski, who was 2 years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on the small city of Hiroshima, where she lived. Sadako, who is 12 years old in the show, learns 10 years after the bomb fell that she has leukemia. She is reminded of the ancient Japanese legend claiming that anyone who folds 1,000 origami cranes would be granted a lifetime of luck, happiness or one wish. Sadako does not live long enough to complete her task and a friend decides to finish the 1,000 cranes for her.

Today, there is a statue in her honor in Hiroshima Peace Park, and each year children from all over the world send thousands of cranes to be placed at the foot of her statue. 

Image of basket full of origami cranes folded by Adams students

In the midst of preparing their show, students at Adams have also been folding origami cranes with the goal of creating 1,000 and sending them to Sadako’s statue in Hiroshima.

Adams theatre directors Jessica Castle and Kathleen McCann chose A Thousand Cranes not only for the power of its story, but also for its connection to the curriculum that students are learning in middle school.

“The lessons included facts that helped the students connect more with Sadako and the story of the people who were left to rebuild after the war,” Mrs. Castle said. “Students calculated how many people died instantly and in the aftermath of the bomb, then compared that to the size of Haslet to reveal more than 150 Haslet's were destroyed from the bomb and its aftermath.
“Students also reflected on the social, psychological and emotional impact this decision had on the pilots flying the planes that dropped the bombs, the difficult decisions that come with war, and the mental and physical state of those left behind in wartime.” 

“I haven’t really connected to another show as much as I have to this one,” said Chloe Schwanenverg, an eighth-grade student who plays Sadako in the play.

“It’s very different from other shows that I’ve done,” added Makiya Sharon, another eighth-grade student who performs in the show. “It really hits you to know that you are telling a real-life story. I really like the connection and the history behind it.”

That connection the students have to the story is obvious to anyone in the audience, and it’s exactly what Mrs. Castle and Mrs. McCann were hoping for when they chose such a poignant show.

“Just the sheer power behind telling someone’s story really hooked the kids,” Mrs. Castle said. “At first, they were skeptical, but they’ve been working hard since November, and now everything is coming together and they are really connecting to the story.

“It’s been really cool to see the students make that connection. When we took the time to teach them the history behind the show, that was the moment that really made them understand the significance of what we are producing. So tying in the history, for me, has made it really cool to see them buy into it.”

The lessons learned are going beyond the group of students involved in the production. Adams social studies and English classes have been able to watch the performance and discuss the history behind it.

The Adams community also enjoyed an evening performance of the show, and parents and community members were able to assist in folding their own origami cranes that will be sent to Hiroshima.

“We wanted to choose something that was meaningful to our community and something that is timely and powerful for our world now,” Mrs. Castle said. “We wanted to maintain the history, tell the story and invite the community to be a part of it.”