A waxing situation

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 20, 2006

Beside a birdcage housing the infamous Raven that came tapping at his chamber door, the haunted poet Edgar Allen Poe extended an arm and cried &#8220villain!”

Down the way, Tom Sawyer doffed his hat and bowed low to visitors, recounting his adventure along the Mississippi in the 1850s.

Shakespeare entertained guests with stories of 16h century England and his theatrical works. Carl Sandburg showed off his Pulitzer. Paul Bunyan stood on a ladder and told tall tales. A caged O. Henry bemoaned his jailing for a controversial embezzlement charge. Anne Frank talked about her famous diary and Nazi oppression.

The second annual Fort Dale Academy House of Wax offered literary connoisseurs an up close meeting with larger-than-life authors and the characters they created.

Literature instructor Laura Watts said a total of 35 eighth graders took part in the assignment, which the students started working on in early April.

Watts said the wax museum idea came from her sister, a teacher in Texas. Her sister's students dressed up as different Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, as well as other heroic figures central to the study of classical mythology.

Watts just translated the assignment into literature.

Watts and fellow literature teacher Ashley Langford required the students to write a speech based on which author, poet or literary character they would be playing. A field trip to the library provided each student with the requisite amount of information. Props and sets - such as Poe's (Brittany Huckaba) birdcage and Shakespeare's (Wynn Boan) Globe Theatre model - were built in class. The students put together their own costumes.

A disc attached to props gave guests the chance to &#8220press a button,” allowing the characters to come to life and recite their speech, just like in a real wax museum. When complete, the students lowered their heads and waited the next group of visitors.

The most difficult part for most, Watts said, was standing on their feet for an extended amount of time.

&#8220When we did a rehearsal, a lot of them were complaining about their feet hurting from standing so long,” said Watts. &#8220I told them that some people had to stand on their feet all day for living.”

When the bell rang and the day's work was done, a weary group of wax figures took to the bleachers.

Left behind, in the middle of the gym floor, the raven uttered &#8220nevermore.”