NARRAGANSETT – Anyone in showbiz knows “the show must go on” and for Siena Taliani, it’s a showing of affection. The Narragansett Elementary School (NES) fourth grader recently wrote and directed a kindness play, that she, her classmates and NES faculty performed for the school last week.
“I got the idea to do this play when my third grade teacher, Mrs. [Suzanne] Pezza directed a theater program in our school,” said Taliani. “I knew she would like the idea about a kindness play and so we started writing the play during lunch time. I was very thankful to have a teacher who was so dedicated to my idea and also who was willing to give up her lunch to help me write it.”
Taliani’s play begins with the Kindness Club, a group dedicated to making a positive impact within the school and local community that Taliani started two years prior, discussing their next activity–making rocks with positive messages on them to be placed in the NES educational garden. However, the “Members Only Club (MOC)” is listening in on the discussion, and the group pretends to assist the Kindness Club in the task. This takes the Kindness Club leader, Taliani, by surprise, as the MOC has always been a rival of the Kindness Club, regularly teasing and poking fun at its members. When MOC members instead write mean and discouraging statements on rocks that end up placed in the school’s garden, the Kindness Club is held accountable by the school principal and faculty, who are disappointed that they seemingly betrayed the club’s core mission of spreading affection for others. However, in a final moment of regret and redemption, a MOC member comes forward and tells the truth, accepts responsibility for the nasty messages on the rocks and joins the Kindness Club. The play’s message, according to Taliani, is that it’s easier to be kind over the alternative.
The show is an extension of the after-school Kindness Club, which Taliani started when she was in second grade. The NES student needed a way to pass the time after the school day ended, and so she began a club that would promote and encourage love, empathy and friendship amongst fellow students.
“I was bored and I wanted to start a club,” summarizes Taliani on the group’s creation. “At first, I didn’t know what I wanted the club to be about, but I knew I was passionate about kindness.”
Taliani recounts the disastrous first meeting of the Kindness Club over two years ago: people weren’t listening, the activities were proving to be too much and boys were chasing the students out of their meeting space.
“The first meeting was a mess,” she said. “I didn’t really know what I was doing. I mean, I was only seven.”
The club went on to produce activities for its members that included creating cards with different messages of affection, other handmade arts and crafts, games and puzzle making for Mother’s Day.
“By third grade, I realized that I had to start bringing in my own materials and actually doing the project during the 20-minute recess block we had once a week,” said Taliani. “Kindness Club really took off at the end of third grade, so I thought why not continue it into fourth, which I knew was going to be the last year for Kindness Club so I really wanted to end it with a bang and put on a play.”
From there, the group got to work making sets and practicing for the play. As the debut drew nearer, Taliani hit some obstacles with some last-minute departures from the club, but the fourth grader and her cast and crew pulled through with rewrites to ensure the play made sense.
“In the end, it was a huge success and really went very well,” said Taliani. “There were many people who stuck with it until the end.”
Taliani gives shoutouts to her cast and crew: Maeve, GG, Riley, Grayson, Evan, Lucy, Abby, Emma and Connor. The fourth grader also thanked Pezza for her role in helping write the play, NES Principal Gail Dandurand and finally, her fourth-grade teacher, Tonia Hassell, for her encouragement.
“They really put the pep that we needed into the show,” said Taliani of the NES players.
“I would like to add that as a fourth-grade teacher, to see the dedication each week to this Kindness Club and the play, knowing the endless hours Siena put into it and never asking for any help was truly inspiring,” said Hassell. “It is very humbling to watch nine and ten year olds determined to make something happen and actually carry it through.”