Lenoir City High School students and faculty know producing a musical requires monumental effort. But countless teachers and community members have dedicated extra time anyway over the past couple months to give students an opportunity to explore theater. Students will be performing the musical "Grease" at the end of the month.
Christy Mowery, LCHS English teacher and assistant director of the upcoming performance, said a musical is a "huge undertaking," especially when it is coupled with preparing for classes every day, but giving students the opportunity is worth it.
"They work really hard and devote a lot of time to memorizing their lines and their music and the dances. I think more than anything it's for them. We choose to do this because of them. We shouldn't do this for any other reason," Mowery said. "We have kids who love being on stage and doing these types of productions, and they are the reason.
"I think people should come and see it to support the kids," she said. "They've worked so hard, and they deserve that."
Students will perform "Grease" at 7 p.m. April 25-26 at the LCHS auditorium. A matinee performance is set for noon April 26.
Natalie Mashburn, a teacher at Lenoir City Middle School and a 2002 LCHS graduate, said she wished she had an opportunity in theater while in high school.
"I think it would have been an awesome opportunity because a lot of these kids if you're interested in drama or dance your schoolmates may never get to see you do it," Mashburn, who is also the choreographer for the musical, said.
"The kids want it to be good, so we want it to be
good for them. You become a teacher for a reason because you care and you want that for them," she said. "I didn't have a theater program, so I'm excited to help this theater program survive. ... Just because the kids are here, and they want to be here it makes me want to be here for them."
Mowery said the opportunity not only broadens students' appreciation of the arts, but will help them in other ways.
"I think it helps them get over some insecurities and stage fright, and it builds confidence and camaraderie among their peers," Mowery said.
LCHS senior Trenton Berry, who participated in the school's last musical two years ago, said he has grown exponentially since he played the scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz." Berry is playing Kenickie in "Grease."
"Theater definitely built confidence. Whenever people are always like, 'I'm nervous about this gig we've got,' I'm like, 'I've got this'," Berry said. "It teaches you how to be confident and enjoy yourself while doing it."
He plans to pursue a major in music and a minor in theater while in college.
"Since I'm majoring in music, the confidence is a big key," Berry said as to why he thinks theater will help him in his future. "You learn how to be around other people that are doing the same thing as you and enjoy it while getting work done. Since I'm majoring in music, everything I learn here I can apply."
Senior Jen Schuster is student producer for the musical. She works with performers and provides them feedback.
"Before we knew what musical we were doing, I knew that I would want to direct anyway. I was in the musical we did my sophomore year. I've been student directing for theater productions for two or three semesters now. I thought that would be really cool to student direct the musical too," Schuster said.
She hopes to become a theater or English teacher, and she believes the experience at LCHS will help her in college and beyond.
"I'm learning how to deal with people better, like showing them in ways that they can understand and not just ways that I can understand. I can individualize it, and I know how to work with each person rather than overall. I like that. I definitely think I'll need that as a teacher," Schuster said.
Mowery said the students are practicing four days a week. They started working on the production in January.
"We have the voices. In years past we had maybe four or five really good voices, and this year we have like 15 good voices. That's why there are so many lead characters in 'Grease.' You can utilize all of your talent," she said.
Mowery said about 40 people are involved, including band members who will be performing the musical score.
Taking on a musical can be challenging in ways other than time dedication. Props and other equipment can be expensive, especially in a musical that uses a car as a prop, Mowery said. Students will be hosting Panther Fest, a fundraiser to promote the upcoming musical and help with expenses. The fundraiser will include a classic car show, starving artist sale, community and club booths, games and music.
"We decided early on that we will have a fundraiser in order to pay for the car and pay for the set and a lot of the things that we are having to do along the way," Mowery said.
Panther Fest will be held 2-6 p.m. April 20 at the front entrance of the school.
Others in the community are also pitching in. Lenoir City Snappy Tomato Pizza owners Bill and Jenny Steward will be donating 10 percent of net profits Monday to the school production.
"We are constantly looking for ways to benefit the community and local schools," Jenny Steward said. "We firmly believe that by supporting the communities that support us, we all thrive together."