Local high schools inspire young actors

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 20, 2005

The Great White Way, New York City’s famous Broadway, is no hop, skip and jump from the Camellia City.

And while local artists’ works appear here and there in local businesses, Greenville doesn’t have an art gallery to call its own.

However, this is one small town that can lay claim to growing a crop of talented young people who can dance, sing, draw, paint and create with the best of them.

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As the school year nears an end, today’s Lifestyles feature page looks at some of this year’s triumphs on stage and on canvas at both Fort Dale Academy and Greenville High School – proving the creative and performing arts are indeed alive and well here in the Camellia City.

These boys can dance

It isn’t always easy to find high school guys who are willing to learn how to dance and sing for a role in a musical.

However, at Fort Dale Academy, there was no shortage of talented teenagers, both male and female, willing to tackle the ambitious roles demanded in this year’s production, &uot;Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.&uot;

The musical is the humorous, rollicking story of Adam Pontipee, his six uncivilized backwoods siblings and their search for brides in the nearest town.

&uot;We have some great guys at FDA who excel in academics, athletics and on stage. The seven who played the brothers in our show were willing to do whatever was necessary to make it a success,&uot; says Nonie Taylor, the FDA teacher who directed the musical production for the school.

Leading man Cory Johnson (&uot;Adam Pontipee&uot;) and his &uot;brothers&uot; Chris Slagley, Brady Newton, Chuck Barrett, Mason Bass, Tim James, Hunter Gregory and John Allen Bates played the seven principal male roles.

The young men’s positive, can-do attitude made all the difference, she says.

&uot;If they didn’t know how, they were willing to learn, whether it was a vocal number, a dance, a stunt or a fight sequence. They worked with student choreographers to learn three different dance routines as well as a fight scene,&uot; says Taylor.

Of course, without brides for these brothers, there wouldn’t have been any show.

Leading lady Madison Norrell was joined by Mallory Lee, Shana Fail, Blake Bush, Kimberlee Johnson, (little sister) Lacey Norrell and Brittany Singleton.

&uot;Our girls also did plenty of dancing, including a ballet number, singing and even a little cat fighting on stage- and they did a great job of it all, too,&uot; says their director.

&uot;Madison and Cory gave stellar performances as the leads with several solos each, as well as a couple of duets. The townspeople rounded out an incredible cast who are still enjoying all the compliments from those who saw the show,&uot; says a proud Taylor.

Taylor will also tell you it wasn’t easy fitting in all those practices between baseball, track, tennis, academic competitions and other extra-curricular activities that jam the spring schedule at the school – not to mention things like tests and homework.

But somehow, these kids did it.

And people took note, lots of them – with 950 tickets sold to the three public shows (an additional performance was put on free of charge for the families of the cast members).

One of those in attendance, Dr. Aubrey Stabler, Jr., wrote in a letter to the editor of The Greenville Advocate the young people could be &uot;extremely proud of what you accomplished.&uot;

&uot;When I can sit through a high school production, lose track of time, and truly be sad to see it end, then it must be great,&uot; Stabler also wrote, adding, &uot;Nothing like this has ever been produced in Greenville.&uot;

Taylor isn’t sure what next year’s FDA production will be, but she is still &uot;over the moon&uot; about the glowing success of this year’s show.

&uot;We had some people who came to all four shows – things just couldn’t have gone better. I was so proud of all the kids. I couldn’t have been prouder of my own children,&uot; Taylor says with a smile.

Comedy tonight

Meanwhile, over at Greenville High School, speech and drama teacher Wendy Smith is also proud of the 20 students who put plenty of hard work into the Old Gym Players’ latest production, the comedic play &uot;60’s Mania&uot; written by Craig Sodaro.

The Players put on two performances for the public. While the crowds weren’t large, the audiences that came were very receptive, with the young actors receiving a standing ovation after their final performance.

&uot;We knew we were in competition with the Relay on Friday night and Southside’s Red, White and Blue Day on Saturday, but it is hard to schedule performances where there isn’t some conflict, says Smith. She adds, &uot;The kids still got the chance to perform for those who did come and everyone seemed to enjoy it – both onstage and in the audience.&uot;

In fact, one of her goals this year, her fourth year of heading up the drama department at the school, was to choose a play with a frothy, fun theme.

&uot;That’s why I chose this play – I wanted my students to have fun with their roles,&uot; Smith explains.

Just as FDA students were largely responsible for lighting, sound and scenery on their production, GHS students likewise tackled many elements of the student production. They built their own sets, put together their individual costumes, designed the programs and helped come up with genuine 60s-era props.

&uot;I think it is all a great learning experience for the kids involved,&uot; says Smith.

The play, set in the 1960s when Beatlemania reigned supreme, centers around an evening at the Hinkle household, a night when everything that can possibly go wrong for one family seems to do just that.

Youngest daughter Alison, played by Mandy Jernigan, wins a date with none other than Ringo Starr. The local fan club gets wind of the news and proceeds to stalk every man who shows up at the house that evening.

However, poor Ringo, played Jaron Schofield, gets himself locked into a trunk by an interfering relative, cranky Aunt Hilda, who mistakes him for the psychiatrist she has invited over in hopes of having her nephew-in-law, the hapless Norman (Bryan Andress) sent away with the men in white coats.

And there is the little matter of Norman’s boss coming over for dinner – and his oldest daughter, Debbie (Jateum Perryman), contemplating running off with a local graffiti artist, hippie dude Starbaby (Cory Cummings).

Needless to say, much confusion ensues, and the Hinkle household resembles a madhouse before it is all over, providing an amusing, fast-paced ride for the audience.

Standout performances for the high school production included Kris Ferguson as Barbara Hinkle, the ever-supportive wife of Norman; Audrea Poole as the bickering Aunt Hilda; Jateum Perryman as the love-struck teen Debbie and Bryan Andress as the good-hearted loan officer who just can’t say no to customers.

Cory Cummings obviously relished his role as the hippie Starbaby, while Clark Young did a good job with role of the starchy old boss Mr. Crabtree, who displayed an unexpected tender side. And everyone seemed to enjoy Zac McCann’s turn as the nerdy-but-caring boyfriend.

Brandon Stanton’s brief role as the neighborhood police officer also brought many laughs.

&uot;It was really good – really funny,&uot; said Dan Perryman, dad to one of the leading ladies, Jateum, as he headed up to the apron of the stage to congratulate his family’s star.

&uot;Oh, Dad, it went so good tonight, nobody forgot their lines or anything,&uot; Jateum exclaimed, as she showed off the hair extensions that had provided her with long 60’s-era hair for her part.

Embracing her baby sister as she was presented with a dozen roses, Jateum flashed a truly stellar smile for the camera.

&uot;I am proud of these kids. We are working on rebuilding the drama program and I think the effort is showing. Who knows, maybe one day we will mount a musical again,&uot; said director Smith.