Several Rogers High School students, and their spring musical, “Godspell,” were strongly praised recently on the main stage of a huge downtown Minneapolis theater. This happened during one of the most remarkable youth programs I’ve ever witnessed. More than 2,600 people jammed into the Orpheum Theater in downtown Minneapolis to praise and promote high school musical theater. It was rowdy, rousing and reassuring.
Peter Schultz, Allee Schaffer, Alyssa Durst, Tolu Ekisola and Trevor Springer were cited for their outstanding performances. And overall, “Godspell” was praised as an “Overall outstanding performance.”
Rogers High School Musical Director Terry Beaudry was featured in a video shown during the production.
Including students from Rogers, 950 students from 47 high schools around the state participated. This was the sixth year that the Hennepin Theatre Trust (HTT) gathered high school musical students for a “Spotlight” program.
The performance was sold out. Why? It was incredibly uplifting, often funny, hugely entertaining and deeply reassuring. These youngsters work very hard on a complicated, complex project – a high school musical. An array of celebrities from radio, TV and newspaper presented awards and praised the young people.
The Trust is looking for other interested schools. Some of their assistance is free. It is impossible to describe all that HTT does to help high school musicals. They assist not only metro area public and private schools, but also schools throughout greater Minnesota (like Alexandria, Bemidji, Melrose, and Moorhead). They do workshops for students and drama coaches, both in person and via video-conferencing. They send trained observers to watch rehearsals and provide feedback. They also help schools share tickets, and props.
Incredible! Much more information is at:
Melissa Koch, the Trust’s Director of Education and Community Engagement believes, “high school musical theatre education touches such a diverse population of students and is incredibly under-appreciated. Not only does it utilize skills in mathematics, physics and design such as in technical aspects of the show, but performing builds a sense of self-confidence, poise and improvisation. Musical theatre education builds community. And for the US future work force, nothing teaches such a wide range of skills that is crucial to creating the innovative leaders we know we need.
Confession time: I had a small role in a high school musical, “Guys and Dolls.” I wasn’t very good. But the experience was wonderful.
Forty-five years ago, there was nothing like the Hennepin Theatre Trust. Today, there is.
Here’s a simple suggestion to any family with a youngster who might be interested, or any educator who does theater or musical theatre with students: Please check out the Hennepin Trust website.
Sarah Cartright, an Eastview senior who received a top award, summarized not only what she, but many others have learned from being in a musical:
“Never stop reaching for your goals. The world of theatre is chock full of rejections, setbacks and disappointments, but there are just as many high points, callbacks and amazing experiences to be had.” — Joe Nathan (Editor’s note: Nathan is a former public school teacher and administrator, directs the Center for School Change at Macalester College. He welcomes reactions, firstname.lastname@example.org)