STUTTGART, Germany — The pressure was on.
Gut-wrenching, lump-in-your-throat pressure.
“If you mess up,” said fifth-grader Porter Grace, “then everyone is going to see it. And you’re going to be standing there looking stupid.”
Talk about being in a tough spot. But pressure isn’t such a bad thing — or nervousness, fear or even flat-out terror — as long as it’s Halloween.
Despite the pressure, the performers pushed on at the Halloween Readers Theater Fest on Wednesday at Patch Elementary School. The fourth- and fifth-graders performed nine skits.
“No one messed up,” Porter said. “Because we practiced a lot.”
About 100 kids sat in a big semicircle in the school lobby to watch the performances. Some teachers and parents were there, too.
And OK, maybe no one messed up in Porter’s skit, “A Tale of Terror,” in which she played the wife. But the actors were definitely keeping track of who got the spotlight.
“She got a longer line than I did,” noted Andrea Pettaway, who played “second witch.”
“My longest line was, like, four words.”
And what was that line?
“When the hurley-burley’s done!”
Getting the longer line was, naturally, “first witch,” played by Samrauit Jackson, who asked, “When shall we meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain?”
There were a few glitches.
Christian Latham was backstage, in charge of popping balloons. He’d stamp on them and they wouldn’t burst. He sat on them and they wouldn’t burst. Hey, that’s show biz.
So he kneeled on them.
“Next time,” Christian said, “I’m going to use my legs.”
The sound-effects guys, fifth-graders Daniel Carmichael and Tristan Reyes, were hiding off stage, but their performances were upfront. From their computer they played thunder and lightning, the shark-music theme from “Jaws,” and a creepy old man saying, “Hello children, we’ve been expecting you … heh, heh, heh.”
There were scary props: The cauldron for the witches. The head of Frankenstein’s monster. Rubber chickens! One kid offered a bloody hand to shake. It came off!
The fifth-graders were in charge of building the stage, which took two weeks. It was a creaky old house, perhaps like a coal miner’s house from the 1800s, a student said. There was a fireplace with knives hanging on the wall, and outside the window mad dogs frothed at the mouth and bared their teeth.
Not real, of course.
Afterward, some of the actors revealed their secrets.
To be the “old lady,” Landry Griffitt said the key was “to sound old, and to be shaky.”
A big group of children gathered afterward. They were asked, “What is the best thing about Halloween?”
“Candy!” they all yelled.
“Scaring people,” was his answer.
It figures — the sound-effects guy.