Theatre Programs Go Well Beyond What You See on Stage

Theatre Programs Go Well Beyond What You See on Stage
Posted on 01/30/2018
This is the image for the news article titled Theatre Programs Go Well Beyond What You See on Stage

group of theatre students on stage

When the curtain opens in late February for Shrek the Musical at Lakota West, the community will be treated to a production that features some truly talented performers as well as some amazing technical theatre elements.

Moving lights, specialty makeup and facial and head appliances will transform students into ogres, bears, pigs, and elves. Thirty body mics and 20 stand mics will be used for the cast and orchestra. The production will use a fog machine, three puppets, five bars of fly scenery, and eight moving wagons of scenery.

And then there’s the 25-foot dragon puppet that takes six students to operate.

It’s no easy feat to put on a theatre production at Lakota – there is so much that goes into each play or musical (for example, there are 138 West students that are in the cast, crew and pit orchestra for Shrek!).

The core of the high school theatre program is the curricular course offerings. Acting I, II, and III are available as a progressive program for students who are curious about or interested in acting. “Students learn to present themselves and gain confidence through performance,” said East Theater Director Kristen Statt. “As they progress, they learn all about the fundamentals of performance and work on more sophisticated skills as they move through the courses.” Next year both campuses will offer a Theatre Arts class that focuses on designing and building sets for the mainstage shows as well as learning about lighting, sound, costumes, props, and makeup. Students will also learn about the theatre business and production.

Lakota theatre courses offer something for the student who has a casual interest in theatre to those who want to pursue it in college. “Theatre is a vital element to our educational process and community,” said Kim Eldridge, Lakota West Theater Director since 1997. “Through our courses and theatre productions, students learn skills that will benefit them in any profession they pursue. Although many Lakota theater alumni are working professionally in the entertainment industry, the rest of our students take a deep love for theatre and appreciation for the arts with them after graduation.”

Exposure to theatre begins during junior high for many Lakota students. Most of the junior high schools offer a drama club that puts on performances for the community. Plains teacher Aaron Nunley is currently working with students on a production of Mulan Jr. “This is the 10th season for theatre at Plains. It has grown to roughly 130-140 students (cast/crew) each year… representing roughly a quarter of our student population. My students develop skills in a variety of arts and sciences including: music, dance, drama, theatre lighting, sound engineering, art, and the technical aspects of theatre. They also build community and learn about the importance of teamwork. Many students describe the program as the highlight of their Plains experience.”

Lakota elementary students also get to experience the benefits that theatre offers. In the fall, Lakota East presents a children’s musical that is completely student run, and elementary students take a field trip to see the play. East has also done special programming with this show with the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts, and American Heritage Girls, doing post-show workshops and tours. West has partnered with elementary and junior high schools on many projects (such as a Dr. Seuss Celebration) over the years. High school theatre students also hold summer camps for students that include a free public performance to showcase the campers’ work.

Both high schools have a chapter of the International Thespian Society (an honor society for theatre students), giving students the ability to attend and compete in regional, state and international competitions. Lakota high schools have won top awards at the state and international levels. This group and other acting students also find time to do educational outreach projects throughout the year.

“Lakota East students have worked with a speech and language pathologist to create situational social role playing videos for use with students with autism,” said Statt. “We have also worked with the Butler County Sherriff’s department on their Text-a-Tip campaign, creating videos for the officers to use in their campaign to get students to understand their safety resources.” West students have worked on similar service projects. “Our Lakota students are always willing to help the community when the need arises,” added Statt.

To learn more about Lakota’s theater program, be sure to tune in to “Listen Up Lakota”, a monthly radio program powered by WMKV 89.3FM. Kim Eldridge and Kristen Statt will be featured guests on the show which will air on Friday, Feb. 16 at 5 p.m. or on Thursday, Feb. 22 at 1 p.m. 

For information on upcoming theatre productions, see the Lakota fine arts calendar.

​​​​​​​Pictured at top: Lakota East students wrap up their first semester theater class.