“Moonboy” Rises over Johnston April 28, 29

At 7 p.m. on April 28 and 29, the Johnston High School auditorium will transform into an [outer] space unlike any other.

“Moonboy” is an adapted play from the book by Carolyn Grace Garcia. The story highlights the journey of Moonboy – played by JHS junior Jack Marren – as he travels from his home on the moon to Earth. Once on Earth, he finds others judge him by appearances until one person decides to find out who he really is. Soon, the townspeople realize Moonboy’s physical features have very little to do with his character.

Heath Pattschull, Johnston High School vocational coordinator, has spent the better half of the year preparing students to perform “Moonboy.” In 2015, Pattschull and his group of special needs students performed “Moongirl” to sold out audiences; he hopes the 2017 production will be just as popular.

MoonBoyFinalpsd“We started out by working with the author of the “Moonboy” book to adapt the script to fit the needs and skills of our students,” Pattschull said. “We have [special needs] students and their Best Buddy peers working on set design, costumes, and acting. It’s a very powerful thing to see so many students with a variety of abilities producing their own play and taking so much pride in their work.”

That sense of pride isn’t something that comes naturally – or easily – for many of Pattschull’s students. As a vocational coach, he works with special education students to help them learn life and job skills they can use post-graduation. The idea of a stage production is often something they never thought possible, he said.

“Sometimes school is harder for these kids,” Pattshull said. “’Moonboy’ gets them excited. We’re able to learn and practice new skills related to math, communication, problem solving, and collaboration while we build the sets and rehearse for the play.”

Pattschull is not alone in his efforts. The JHS Best Buddies organization pairs up with Pattschull’s students to produce the play. Early on in the school year, he enlisted seniors Callie Sandahl and Caroline Ludwig to lead the charge. Both were involved with the “Moongirl” production and were eager to put a new spin on the play.

“What started out a vision is coming to life,” said Ludwig. “All the hours re-writing the script, managing the students and their jobs, and seeing how excited the students are to perform is worth it. I think when people see the play, they won’t be wondering if a special needs student or their buddy created a piece of artwork – they are going to be thinking how cool the play is and how many abilities all students have.”

Sandahl agreed – students with special needs rarely have the opportunity to show the community the work they are capable of. She said watching students’ confidence grow over the course of the last few months has been inspiring.

What’s more, Pattschull said the whole high school is getting involved. Students in wood shop classes have built a house and other props as part of the stage design; the spring musical cast will recycle some of their scenery to the Moon Boy crew; and students in Peer Art have been helping with artwork.

“It’s been wonderful to see others in the high school and community as excited about this play as we are,” Pattschull said. “Our district has a unique relationship with ChildServe and we honor how it has shaped our educational programs. We feel our community should see just how capable and talented our students are. ‘Moonboy’ is a perfect way to do that.”

Moonboy will have two productions – Friday, April 28 and Saturday, April 29 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 via RekTrak. All proceeds from the play go directly back to support Pattschull’s Experience Based Career Education class.