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St. John Neumann students step into history

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    Olivia Erickson, center, tells the tale of Queen Elizabeth II during Madam McLaughlin’s Wax Museum at St. John Neumann Regional School on Tuesday afternoon. Students from the seventh and eighth grade classes researched a decade and a famous figure from that time, and then dressed up as the character to speak about their life. From left, Emma Martinez as Kathrine Switzer, Jacob Fenstamaker as Babe Ruth, Erickson, and Chris Capone as George Lucas. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app to see Erickson’s speech as Queen Elizabeth II. BRIAN W. MYSZKOWSKI/TIMES NEWS

Published May 16. 2018 11:20AM

Step inside Madam McLaughlin’s Wax Museum and hear the incredible stories of history’s most notable figures.

Students and guests of St. John Neumann Regional School in Palmerton were treated to an informative show hosted by museum curator and seventh and eighth grade teacher Donna McLaughlin on Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s the final project that my seventh and eighth grade students do each year,” McLaughlin said.

“They had to research a decade and then they had to research a famous person from that decade, and they are pretending to be that person today in the Wax Museum. When they ‘come alive,’ they are Adrienne de Lafayette, or Woodrow Wilson, and so we learn something about each character that they become.”

The project encompassed elements of research, public speaking and art, as each student created their own wardrobe and crafted a memory book for their character and their time period.

McLaughlin introduced each decade with a truncated history lesson, spelling out major events of the time period and setting the stage for the actors and actresses. Spread about in the school’s gymnasium, each student maintained a pose reflective of their character throughout the course of the show. After a few bars of period-specific music to play them on, the “wax figures” sprang to life and spouted their stories.

Ranging from Shannon Dougherty’s portrayal of Eliza Hamilton in the 1770s to Chase Wisocky’s take on Johnny Depp in the 1990s, the audience heard from a variety of literary, film, political and cultural celebrities.

Alise Heisey regaled the crowd with the biography of author Agatha Christie, highlighting her self-education, the publication of her famous Hercule Poirot novels and her family life.

“The last thing I want to say is, the impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible despite appearances,” she said, quoting one of Christie’s most famous lines.

John “Carl” Moyer told the incredible tale of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who served as a combat medic during World War II, earning the distinguished Medal of Honor.

“I was often harassed by fellow soldiers for refusing a gun. One of my most famous moments was during the Battle of Okinawa, which was when I single-handedly saved the lives of about 75 people,” Moyer said.

Chris Capone’s portrayal of filmmaker George Lucas was done in the manner of a director working on a movie, issuing cues for the music and allowing for a quick break to discuss his history before hurrying back to the set. And yes, his musical sample was the “Star Wars” theme.

“I just studied, looked over the lines, and did some improv. I’m a free-flowing kind of guy, I get the basics down and then add details later,” Capone said.

Olivia Erickson said that she picked the role of Queen Elizabeth II because of her interest in the series “The Crown,” among other aspects of the life of the aristocracy.

“I did a lot of research, and I watched a lot of news, since Prince Harry is getting married this weekend,” Erickson said.

Charlotte Vinson told the tale of Clara Barton, originator of the American Red Cross who famously declared, “If I can’t be a soldier, I’ll help soldiers.” Vinson said that she found Barton to be an admirable figure who deserved recognition.

“I thought it was really inspiring that she ran around the battlefields taking care of the soldiers. I thought it was so nice that she took the time to do that,” she said.

McLaughlin was impressed with the students’ work, commending them for their attention to detail and spirited performances. Hopefully, she said, the immersive experience of becoming another person will provide a better understanding of history.

“I hope they remember some things about their character, and some details about the decades and how things changed over time, such as fashion, music or historical events,” McLaughlin said. “I think they did a tremendous job.”



The cast

1770s: Shannon Dougherty as Eliza Hamilton

1790s: Caitlyn Kratzer as Adrienne de Lafayette

1810s: Aiden Otero as Gen. Oliver Perry

1860s: Charlotte Vinson as Clara Barton

1890s: Alise Heisey as Agatha Christie

1900s: Alex Kokosky as Henry Ford

1910s: Scott Young as Woodrow Wilson

1920s: Jacob Fenstamaker as Babe Ruth

1930s: Samantha Steier as Natalie Wood

1940s: John “Carl” Moyer as Desmond Doss

1950s: Olivia Erickson as Queen Elizabeth II

1960s: Emma Martinez as Kathrine Switzer

1970s: Chris Capone as George Lucas

1980s: Chris Ross as Larry Bird

1990s: Chase Wisocky as Johnny Depp

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