Everyone knows even those with little or no theater knowledge that a wide range of talent is essential to the success of any theatre program. Mt. Vernon High School has a leg over its competition, its diversity both in the student population and productions. Pooling from the school and community resources, Mt. Vernon HS Theatre Directors David Schmidt, IB Theatre teacher, and Caren Hearne, after-school theatre director draw on the talents of their students to produce shows that are rewarding and challenging. In addition, the two directors choose classic and contemporary plays that will bring the students new skills.
This year's program has ranged from children's story to the classics. The students performed "The Secret Garden" for their fall production and "Sleeping Beauty," "Princess and the Pea" and "Livin' Da Life" for the 4th Annual Children's Theatre Festival. The spring musical is "Peter Pan" in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Sir Barrie's famous book.
DIVERSITY COMES in the performance as well. In addition to their lines and blocking, the students learn how to fly and do stage combat for "Peter Pan." Hearne made arrangements with theatre specialists Janine and Mike Murphy-Nielson; workshops were conducted to train the students in theatrical fighting and fencing. "The Peter Pan" cast and crew includes local young children ages 7-10 in the roles of the Indians and Lost Boys who are an essential part of the play. Cast members learn how to work with young performers too.
A lot of time is spent as well by the technical crew to get the "special effects" perfect such as sound and lighting. One of the special effects will be a mobile 8-foot crocodile.
"It's a once in a lifetime experience for them. They wanted to perform Peter Pan in the traditional Broadway method by flying and such in honor of the 100th anniversary. It has been very exciting making the special arrangements. They have worked very hard to make this a great show which I know it is going to be," says Hearne.
AT THE SAME TIME, lots of acting and tech work is occurring in the classroom as well. David Schmidt is taking his IB theatre students to a Shakespeare competition held at Thomas Jefferson High School. Each scene of "Henry V" is performed by a different school in continuous sequence. The schools can adapt the classic to a different time frame allowing for a unique way to perform and see how other schools perform the classic. "The performing arts develop life skills that a student will use in whatever profession they choose whether their careers are in the theatre or not," Schmidt said. After the Shakespeare competition, students will perform one-act plays as part of their final exam.
This year also marks milestones for the Thespians. They began two special programs. One is the Thespian Big Brother Big Sister program to help new students become involved with the theatre. They also started with the Children's Theatre Festival having a performance sign interpreted (ASL). They plan on continuing with this ASL service for at least one performance per production. The Sunday, April 25 3 p.m. performance of "Peter Pan" will be sign interpreted.