Photos courtesy of the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.
High school theater programs offer invaluable experiences to students, whether they eventually pursue theater professionally or not. The skills a student can develop by participating in a production are multifaceted: time management, public speaking, thinking on their feet, poise, teamwork, patience, taking on responsibility and much more.
Programs that connect high school students with professional theater artists enhance and further develop these skills, and this year, Southern Door High School will be the first school in the county to participate in the Center Stage Musical Theater Program of the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.
Bonnie Weydt, the choir director at Southern Door Middle and High School, has known about the program for years, but this was the first time when the program’s participation border was expanded to include Door County.
Last year, Southern Door put on its fall musical before schools closed in March, but the coronavirus put plans for a spring play on hold. This year, the school plans to put on a production of Hello! My Baby, but it’s heavily modifying its audition and rehearsal processes.
“Students will audition in person, and the director will watch them live on Google Meet,” Weydt said. The auditions will take place in two separate sites to reduce the number of students in one place. A live audition setting gives as many students an opportunity to audition as possible, versus asking students to audition remotely or record their auditions from home, where not all students have equal access to the necessary equipment or the internet.
“Rehearsals will be focused on small groups,” Weydt said, and students will wear masks and remain socially distant while rehearsing.
Plans have been made to record the production for virtual attendance, depending on what the public-health situation requires next year when it comes time to perform.
Regardless of how the show will go on, Center Stage Musical Theater Program adjudicators will review the performance to give the students and staff feedback about how it went, and they may give awards for standout performances.
The Center Stage program also opens doors for students to work with theater professionals – this year virtually – through workshops and master classes. Last year, students worked with Ta’Rea Campbell, who played Angelica Schuyler in the Phillip Company’s production of Hamilton. This year, David F.M. Vaughn (Shrek The Musical) and Gerald Henly, director of production and facility operations for the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, will offer virtual workshops.
Weydt said her students are excited to be involved in the program, and she’s thankful that opportunities such as Center Stage have been modified this year to allow area students to connect with theater professionals and each other to, she said, “keep the arts alive.”
“I’ve been really pleased,” Weydt said. “There are other schools involved that I haven’t had connections with … and for the students’ sake, they learn so much from each other.”