Before the debut of the winter musical production of “Mary Poppins,” Waxahachie High School theater students visited district elementary schools in character.

The two stars of the show, Madison Zandt, who plays the celebrated Mary Poppins, and Sam Linguist, who portrays Bert, also happen to be longtime friends.

Peggy Linguist, mother of Sam and a booster club member, and theater director Andy Reynolds derived the idea for the duo to travel to all the schools to promote the family-oriented show.

For the high school seniors, the excursion meant an opportunity for character development advancements and to share the impact of theater arts with younger generations.

“It’s really cool because all the kids know who you are,” Zandt explained. “It’s amazing to see the smiles on their faces — ‘Mary Poppins and Bert!’ Just to hear that is rewarding and it’s a really cool experience.”

Each campus visit was unique in its own way, the two agreed. When the actors visited Shackelford Elementary, the Zandt and Linguist joined the music class and sang “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” They also opened car doors to greet young students, joined students for lunch and in gymnasiums and provided morning announcements.

The act of being in character off stage was a challenge for the high school thespians but allowed them to flourish as actors. Zandt said continually speaking in a British accent was difficult and to practice at the schools was ideal to hone in on the extra touch that made her character more believable.

Zandt explained she studied Julie Andrews in the Disney rendition of “Mary Poppins”— everything from facial expressions to body language and the fluctuation in her voice — to better get into character.

“I had to do a lot of character development to make sure that I was portraying Mary Poppins in the way Mary Poppins should be portrayed,” Zandt explained.

Linguist noted even the act of taking his costume home seemed foreign and then to act as Bert without a spotlight and his cast members alongside was a completely different element.

He noted one of his strong suits as an actor is his facial expressions, which is a vital trait for Bert. Linguist developed his character further at the elementary schools around the Dick Van Dyke rendition in the Disney movie as well as the various Broadway actors who portrayed Bert.

For Linguist, venturing out to the campuses was more than a promotion, but instead, he wanted to send a message that young students interested in theater arts can start in junior high.

“I like to show that musical theater is not just for girls, you can be a guy and have a great time and do great stuff,” Linguist elaborated. “It was fun. When I was in elementary school, I wished they would have come to school and did something like that.”

After Linguist reflected further on the experience, he said, “I’ve learned that my impact of being a high school student on the stage is more than I thought it was for sure.

For Zandt, it was not her first time to travel around the elementary schools in character. During the football season, Zandt visited the campuses dress as the WHS Indian mascot.

“It’s been very fun because Mary Poppins is a very family driven show," Zandt said. "[...] We are also giving away 50 free tickets to every show so a lot of those kids will be able to come see our show, which is rewarding because they might have not gotten to without the free ticket."

**A full photo gallery of the production can be found here: http://bit.ly/2sImwlV

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450