FARMINGTON — Petra Lyon, the drama teacher at Hermosa Middle School, had wanted her eighth-grade drama students to put on the play "Diary of Anne Frank" this year. However, her class was too big for the small cast.
Instead, Lyon decided to let her students write a play based on the story of Anne Frank.
The play, "The Q Gene," will premiere at 6 p.m. Thursday at Hermosa Middle School in Farmington.
It tells the story of a group of children in the year 2084 who are hiding from the gene police.
In 2069, a scientist invented a serum that would cause people not to question. By 2071, all children were being injected with the serum. However, some of the children's genetics give them an immunity. Instead, the serum leaves a red mark on their wrists.
"We wanted to make it seem almost like it could happen," said student Holly Woodside.
The play starts with a prologue, created using iMovie. The prologue is a series of broadcasts, starting in 2069 and finishing in 2083.
Drama student Anna Wilkinson said the prologue details how their rights were slowly taken away. The government decides that the children who are unaffected by the serum are dangerous and orders families to turn them over. However, not all of the children are taken to the government and some go into hiding.
The marks that appear on their wrists were designed by Keenan Christesen, one of the drama students.
"It supposed to be a little bit different on each person," he said, pointing out that his mark is a little larger and thicker than some of the others.
In addition to writing the play, each student also created their own character. Some of them, like Wilkinson, worked traits from their own life into their characters. She likes to paint and so does her character.
Other students, like Christina Bratcher, chose to make their characters the opposite of their personalities.
She said her character is a "clean freak" while, in real life, she isn't so obsessed with cleaning.
Joseph Rivera, another student, chose to design his character based on his strengths in acting. He said his character is extremely angry. In the past, he has also played angry characters.
"I can fit them good because I have a pretty big voice," he said.
In order to add to the play's realism, Lyon assigned the students different subjects to research. Woodside was assigned to research power grids and the subject of coup d'etats. The research became an important part of the play. The hidden children are clinging to the hope that another country will hack into the power grids and they believe when the lights go out, they will be saved.
Woodside said at the end the lights begin to go out and give the children a false sense of hope before the gene police enter.
In addition to individual research, Lyon had the class watch the movie "Anne Frank."
At the end of the movie, each of the characters is pictured along with the dates of their deaths. The students took this idea and brought it into their play. At the end, each character's picture is displayed on a screen with the date they got arrested, when they died and their grave number.
The students inserted subtle details. One of the characters is the daughter of the scientist who created the serum. Below her picture it says she was buried in a family tomb. Another detail the students added involved a set of twins. If the audience watches carefully, they will notice that the twins, who are sent to different labs after the arrest, die the same day and are buried side by side.
For the epilogue featuring the pictures, Wilkinson said they wanted to make it seem like the pictures were part of government files about each child and that "we're nothing but a few words on paper."
In order to achieve this effect, the students used Keynote, a software program similar to PowerPoint.
The students also say the play has a message behind it.
"It kind of shows how much a person can change having others around them in a difficult situation," student Kazhia Small said.
While there is a lot of tension between characters, they learn to live together and even manage to overcome their animosity. As the gene police are coming, Woodside said her character's enemy hides her in a closet, allowing her to survive.
But the play also deals with the importance of history. Many of the students have at times wondered why they have to learn history in school.
"We did this to show that history repeats itself," Wilkinson said.