Gallo Center show in Modesto worms its way into kids’ hearts

jfarrow@modbee.comOctober 30, 2013 

— Like buzzing little bees to a hive, hundreds of area schoolkids swarmed to the Gallo Center for the Arts on Wednesday morning for the musical tale of an insecure worm and his circle of friends.

Part of the center’s Pathways to Creativity arts education outreach, the show drew children from Modesto and surrounding communities, among them Turlock, Hughson, Empire, Ceres and Escalon.

Amid students in their everyday schoolclothes were many boys and girls dressed to the nines for an outing to the theater. Little ladies in frilly dresses, with flowers or bows in their done-up hair. Little gentlemen in ties, bow ties, even pinstriped vests and trousers. “We encouraged the kids to dress up and look professional,” said Tina Johnston, a first-grade teacher at Dennis Earl Elementary in Turlock. “This is a neat experience for them.”

Lined up outside the arts center’s doors, the kids appeared eager to get inside for the show – and out of the chilly, breezy morning air. Megan Schweitzer, one of Johnston’s students, was smiling and laughing at friends, but when asked if she was looking forward to the show, replied, “Not really.” Why? “Because worms are gross and live in dirt,” she said.

But snug in her seat, Audrey L’Heureux was familiar with the popular books on which the musical, “Diary of a Worm, a Spider & a Fly,” is based, and was thrilled to be front-row center. “Worm writes a diary about his life. He has a wild life,” said the second-grader in teacher Stephanie Orona’s second-grade class at Enslen Elementary in Modesto. Her idea of wild? “They do the hokey pokey, but they can only do part of it.”

“They” would be Worm and his friends: a spider, a fly, an ant and a butterfly. Clearly, the hokey pokey is an entirely different proposition if you have six legs, eight legs or no legs at all.

Those differences among the friends – the ant’s strength, the spider’s web wizardry, the fly’s flying skills – are celebrated in a story that follows the group as the school year gets under way. Initially, Worm feels there’s nothing special about himself, but learns that’s not true of anyone, and that his big heart, sense of humor and awesome tunneling ability are among the qualities that set him apart.

At one point, he realizes, “One cool thing about being a worm, no one cares if you’re filthy dirty.”

Guess he hasn’t met Megan.

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