By Gary Walker

Second graders at Beethoven Elementary School sing during "The Frog Prince 2"

Second graders at Beethoven Elementary School sing during “The Frog Prince 2”

In their annual holiday play, young thespians at Mar Vista’s Beethoven Elementary School have performed as a family struggling to survive in post-World War II Holland and in a play that explored how Alzheimer’s disease impacts multiple generations of a family unit.
This year brought a bit lighter fare, when on Dec. 19 the school staged “The Frog Prince 2,” an adaptation of the children’s book by Jon Scieszka that’s based on the Brothers Grimm fairytale.
“Our theme this year was ‘be grateful for what you have,’” said Kristin Duerr, who has produced the school’s holiday plays for the past five years. “We also stressed a ‘save a tree’ theme by using less paper and recycling. After all, we want to preserve our planet not lose it.”
In the story, the prince thinks it would be better to have remained a frog than to live with his constantly nagging princess. In the end, he realizes that he loves his life just the way it is.
Duerr, a retired Beethoven teacher, is often influenced by personal experiences when it comes to choosing the student plays — though not when it comes to princes.
Last year, the matriarch of the family in “The Memory Slippers” had Alzheimer’s disease, an affliction Duerr’s mother also suffers.
“With the passing of my mom and my beloved dog this year, I wanted to really look at how important it is to cherish what we have before it’s gone,” Duerr said of “The Frog Prince.”

Beethoven Elementary Parent-Teacher Association President Kathy Vigil credited Duerr with turning out plays to which both students and parents can relate.
“I do not know how she does it, but very year it gets better and better,” Vigil said.
Duerr plans to make the 2014 holiday play her last one.
“I am planning a very special event for next year — maybe about a teacher who is retiring from her beloved school and is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future,” she hinted.
“This is my favorite time of year because of the holiday program at Beethoven,” Duerr added. “It means so much to me to take that little auditorium and transform it into a wonderland.”