Middle schoolers ready to strike


Union militants are getting younger and younger these days.

The 500-seat auditorium at Portland’s Da Vinci Arts Middle School has lately echoed with middle schoolers chanting “Strike, Strike, Strike!” at top volume. But they’re not shutting down classes; they’re rehearsing for an upcoming production of the musical “Newsies.”

“Newsies” is loosely based on the real-life story of a 1899 strike by child newspaper hawkers against the Hearst and Pulitzer papers in New York City. It debuted in 1992 as a Disney film and was later made into a musical that ran on Broadway from 2012 to 2014.

Da Vinci students will be performing an hour-long junior version of the musical published by the licensing agency Music Theatre International.

Da Vinci is a magnet school that emphasizes art, music, dance, and theater. About 70 middle school students are in the cast, and another 60 are in the production crew.

Da Vinci drama teacher Nicole Accuardi, who’s directing the play, said students seem awestruck to be performing this particular play, and they feel a kinship to the struggles of child workers from over a century ago.

“They’re talking constantly about it, like, ‘These are people our age that did this.’ And they’re seeing the fact that there is power in community,” Accuardi said.

Chrisse Roccaro, secretary of the Portland chapter of SAG-AFTRA, is serving as the show’s musical director. Dance teacher Sara Martins is the choreographer. And drama teacher Heidi Sprecher is costume and technical director.

The show will have six performances, including a designated “labor night” March 8 in which union members are encouraged to show up wearing union swag.

  • WHEN  7 p.m. March 7, 8, 9, 14, and 15 and 2 p.m. March 16
  • WHERE  Da Vinci Arts Middle School, 2508 NE Everett St.
  • TICKETS  $10 or pay what you will, available at the box office or online.     


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