JHS Thespians present “The Miracle Worker”

The Miracle Worker tells the story of Annie Sullivan and her student, blind and mute Helen Keller. William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker dramatizes the volatile relationship between the lonely teacher and her charge. The JHS cast and crew have stepped up to the task with some big challenges portraying this classic story. Don’t miss your chance to catch the phenomenal student-run, annual Fall production this week!

The Miracle Worker has powerful messages for everyone. In Helen, Anne, and Kate Keller (Helen’s mother), audiences can identify with strong and independent female characters.  Others can empathize with parents of children with disabilities, and try to imagine the challenges as well as rewards these courageous and loving families experience.  It’s also easy for those in education to admire the tenacity and strength of teacher Anne Sullivan. 


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Performances will take place at the Jenison Center for the Arts, November 7 – 9 at 7:30pm and a matinee on November 10 at 2:30pm. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for Senior Citizens or Students under age 18. 

*Due to its dramatic nature, this play is not recommended for younger children who are unable to sit quietly for the duration of the performance.


When Anne Sullivan died, her ashes were placed inside the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.  After Helen died, her ashes were interred next to those of her beloved teacher. Teachers know how important and special a relationship with a student can be. Finally, everyone experiencing the show can relate to the importance of perseverance.

This year also marks the 25th Anniversary of Mr. Todd Avery bringing quality educational theatre to Jenison and our surrounding communities. 

Miracle_Worker_2019-1-2“Theatre can make a difference in the lives of everyone! No matter how our production touches you, we are delighted to share in our storytelling.  

Thank you to the many amazing volunteers overseeing essential teams such as set design, costumes, lighting, and sound. BRAVO Cast & Crew! Another job well done showcasing your talent and dedication! I am blessed to have the opportunity to direct this incredible play in my last year at JHS with this talented group of young actors and techs.” – Todd Avery, Director of Theatre Arts JPS

Click here for the full photo gallery.

Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose – not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember.” Anne Sullivan

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‘Santa’ is Everywhere!

 

While the ‘man in the red suit’ certainly adds to the excitement of the Christmas season, our community knows that bringing joy and being Santa to others can’t be left to him at this, or any time of the year. The reason for this season gives me hope, direction and purpose! I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas with loved ones this week.

Jenison High School students participated in some pretty outstanding events this month.  Keep reading to learn more about how the students have been busy spreading good cheer!

Thespian Santa Breakfast, November 24

What began 8 years ago as a way to offer a more intimate and affordable Santa experience, has turned into tradition for many local families. For about the price of a mall photo (without the fun of the usual long, boring line); a whole family is able to enjoy being served a pancake breakfast and a variety of other fun activities sponsored by Mr. Todd Avery and the Jenison High School Thespian Troupe.

The Thespian students do a great job taking their roles very seriously and maximizing the authenticity of the experience for their guests. They don their North Pole best, help serve breakfast and do face painting and crafts with the kids. This year, they added a fun story time; and last but not least, kids got a magical experience as they lingered during a relaxing visit with Santa (where he knew their names before they even approached him!) Photos courtesy of Larry Treece Photography.

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Santa’s Woodshop, December 18 

When teacher, Dave Albert joined the Jenison Industrial Arts program this year, he brought with him a wonderful holiday tradition. As a class project, his woodshop students built wood rocking chair airplanes for selected families. It was a lovely evening with the talent of the Jenison National Art Honor Society students on display as well. They teamed up to with the woodshop students to paint details on the airplanes and helped transform Mr. Albert’s workshop into a winter wonderland! 

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Santa’s Secret Shoppers, December 20

Long before the snow begins to fly, the elves known as the Jenison National Honors Society, get to work organizing a toy drive and arranging sponsors for families in the community. Often, teachers involve their students to become sponsors to adopt-a-family and complete gift wishlists. The high school students do the bulk of organizing for the event which includes facilitating the collection, organizing toys and shopping should there be cash donations. They arrange a pick up night for the families which also includes gift wrapping materials so they can proudly wrap the gifts! No matter the task, these students are committed to making sure these families have a very merry Christmas! This is the 15th year for this event and we’re so proud that over 90 kids were served by the generosity of our JPS community this year.

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JHS Fall Play: Robin Hood and The Heroes of Sherwood Forest

Months of hard work, late nights and intense creativity was unveiled this week on the great stage of the Jenison Center for the Arts. Director, Todd Avery and the Jenison High School Thespians kicked off their fall play season with preview performances of Robin Hood and the Heroes of Sherwood Forest. (Psst… you do not want to miss your chance to catch one of the remaining performances – visit www.jpsarts.com for tickets!)

Tuesday afternoon, our 4th, 5th and 6th grade students filled the JCA and were treated with a matinee of the show. It was encouraging to see our young students (and future thespians) soak in the show as a well behaved and responsive audience. The reviews are in and they gave it a whole lot of thumbs up! I wouldn’t be surprised if they talk their families into coming back this weekend. Wednesday was the first evening preview show open to the public.

132187678d09a945c320ce883c741291bfdba8b3Written by local playwright, Randy Wyatt, this fresh adaptation of the well-known English tale combines characters and elements from several medieval texts and gives it all a modern twist, emphasizing a community of heroes (men and women) rather than a one-man approach to heroism. Robin Hood and his friends—the hulking barbarian Little John, the kindhearted Friar Tuck, the sharpshooting woman-in-man’s clothing Scarlet, the jovial minstrel Alan-a-Dale and the retired soldier David of Duncaster—band together to save the poor people of Nottingham from unjust taxation and poverty at the hands of Prince John and his long-suffering yet cruel Sheriff. Two gypsy orphans, Maid Marion’s handmaiden and a mysterious stranger share a secret that could win the day—or see Robin hanged by morning!

The performance technique is a children’s theatre performance style, something Mr. Avery became very fond of during his time in college. Some of his best memories include working hard to make the story feel as if it was jumping off the page of a storybook. This is quite a departure from the Thespian projects of last year – he knew his students would need to be very intentional about the process. And they were, they proudly rose to the challenge. They portray a heartwarming story with plenty of action and humor! Another favorite he is excited for the students to share, is greeting the children from the audience, who for the last 90 minutes have been transported to another time and place. The storytelling power of theatre and its effect on people of all ages is remarkable; people come away very inspired by the magic being created before them on the stage.

132187889385c4fc2430ef45d42e6feb6c1bd66eAs with all Jenison High School Thespian productions, Robin Hood is entirely student-run with assistance from some staff members and many amazing volunteers overseeing other essential teams such as set design, costumes, lighting, and sound. BRAVO Cast & Crew! Another job well done showcasing your talent and dedication!

There are 5 more opportunities for you to catch this family friendly production this weekend. You will not want to miss it! Visit www.jpsarts.com for tickets

Written by Randy Wyatt |Directed by Todd Avery |Produced by special arrangement with Youth PLAYS

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Student Directed Plays Make a Big Splash!

41432736_692829421085471_1502936192197328896_oTeaching, acting and directing is second nature to Mr. Todd Avery, our very own Teacher/Director of Theatre Arts, and he’s always eager to share his love of the energetic, fast paced world of performing arts. When he joined our community 24 years ago, he dreamed of providing students with an outlet where they could create something on their own; with guidance, and inspire other students. He is beyond excited that he witnessed the dream come true and so proud that 24 years later, the program is still going strong.

41517292_692826804419066_4401504762936164352_o.jpgThe annual Festival of Plays kicked off the 2018-19 theatre season this past weekend. However, behind the scenes work has been going on for months. Student directors go to work on the project before school even adjourns for the summer. Mr. Avery acknowledges that directing a play/musical is no easy task and knows the students will be challenged and stretched in many ways. As one who has over 50 outstanding Jenison productions under his belt, he should know.

The student directors are charged with choosing a play, analyzing it, developing a concept and then persuasively presenting it to be chosen as part of the festival. If their play is chosen, they move forward with developing an audition plan, sit through a 3 hour audition process, negotiate with other students regarding casting decisions, and ultimately choose and notify the cast. That all sounds like a huge undertaking, but wait – learning lines and countless hours of rehearsals hasn’t even made the list yet!41477438_692828077752272_3499005213468000256_o-e1536801411220.jpg Student directors and stage managers for 2018 include Brandon Zink, Emma Byerwalter, Caden Hembrough, Hailie MacKay, Drew English, Isabelle England, and Alyssa Sumption. Most agreed that developing a summer rehearsal schedule and working around the 40+ cast members with time conflicts was the most challenging piece of the puzzle. They were also tasked with finding rehearsal space (usually a location in the director’s home), then worked to perfect their performances by the show deadline. 

 

festival-of-plays-7At the conclusion of this year’s Festival, Mr. Avery says, “The opportunity to problem solve, develop friendships, and build self-confidence are a few of the many benefits that a theater experience can provide and every year, I am pleasantly surprised by the independence demonstrated by the student directors. They take their jobs seriously and treat their actors with respect. I always stress that the rehearsal process should be fun, useful, and efficient. If the process is good, a good product is bound to follow. These kids grow together and support one another as they create some really good theatre. I couldn’t ask for anything more or be more proud of their work.” 

 

The students enjoy the process and learn so much. We are all very honored to have Mr. Avery in Jenison building up our students and helping them succeed on and off the stage. Keep reading to see what some of the students had to say about their experience…

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Jenison High School cast of “21 Chump Street” by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Director: Brandon Zink and Stage Manager Emma Byerwalter)

Brandon Zink, Senior – There’s no doubt that Jenison is the best when it comes to our theatre program. We are offered countless opportunities to showcase our talents, and the creative independence with these FoP shows is so rewarding. These student directed shows give you a taste of how there won’t always be an adult to hold your hand and guide your every move, we’re given the freedom to do what we want with our shows. I feel so thankful to go to a school that cares as much about the arts as Jenison does. The faith that Mr. Avery has in his thespians and their capabilities is outstanding and so beneficial to our growth as performers and all-around members of Thespian Troupe #5421.

Emma Byerwalter, Senior – We are so lucky to be provided with many different opportunities to learn and grow in the Jenison Theatre program. From plays and musicals, dance workshops, festival of plays, 24-hour play, and State Thespian Festival, our program really has it all! Plus, the other students I work with in this program are the absolute most kind hearted and genuine people I know! We support each other no matter what. I feel as if the students in this program are overwhelmingly inviting, we are brought together by a love of theatre and enjoy sharing it with as many people as possible.

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Jenison High School cast of “Last Night in London” by Kimberly Lew (Directors Drew English & Isabelle England and Stage Manager Alyssa Sumption).

Drew English, SeniorThanks to Mr. Avery and everyone else who has made this program possible.  It’s truly life-changing and I’ll never forget the memories I’ve made in theatre. Directing has taught me so much about all the work that goes into a show and has made me a more detailed person in all aspects of life. Theatre has taught me to slow down and live in the moment and that time goes by fast when you’re having fun.

Isabelle England, SeniorThe JHS theatre department is so amazing and for many more reasons than just one. I feel so incredibly blessed to have such an amazing director running the program. Mr.Avery and his vision for all the shows we do is amazing. He is so kind, funny and caring and he is just one reason this program is so amazing. I have worked on costumes for all 6 shows I have done, the upcoming play being my 7th, and I’ve not only learned how to sew but I’ve learned so many amazing life skills like leadership and conflict resolution, and how to work as a team. I’m really grateful for all the wonderful adults and all the kids that make the program so great.
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Jenison High School cast of “The Customer is Always Wrong” by Ian McWethy (Director Caden Hembrough and Stage Manager Hailie MacKay)

Caden Hembrough, SeniorThere’s no question Jenison Thespians are learning a lot about life from theatre. I think the biggest lesson we learn is responsibility. Theatre is both an individual and group effort. To learn to do your part on or off stage is what benefits everyone involved.
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BRAVO!! Hats off to Mr. Avery, all the student leaders and cast members who poured so much of themselves into these amazing shows! You are an amazing reflection of our Jenison community. Thank you to Bella Van Slyke and Emma Byerwalter for sharing their photos.

Jenison High School Thespians Present “Singin’ In The Rain”

Jenison High School, Singin' In The Rain, Jenison Thespians

What happens when a love triangle unfolds onstage amidst lies, deception, and desperate women? The umbrellas and rainslickers come out, of course, because the inevitable love connection ends with some singing in the rain!

With a stage slathered in three coats of polyurethane, our Jenison Thespians have a surprise in store for ticket holders next week! (hint: there’s a reason for the rainslickers!) Stage hands and actors alike have been tap dancing and singing their way to this moment since last summer, taking lessons and receiving specialized instruction to help them live into their characters more fully.

“Going into this musical I knew that everyone would have to put in more effort than before. My devotion to theater was great before, but Singin’ In The Rain requires a new level of commitment,” explained Ben.

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“This is the most technically difficult and biggest dance show we’ve ever done. Three years ago I never would’ve even considered doing this show. There are so many different scenes — everything is one wheels — being flexible is so important, but these kids are ready,” said teacher Mr. Avery.

Stage Manager KendraVeldt is Mr. Avery’s righthand-woman as he preps for the biggest show of his career. Her job is to oversee everybody — the crew and cast — making sure that fans, umbrellas, lights, boots, and sets are in just the right place…at just the right time.

“Getting people to listen to my instruction, even though we’re the same age, is my biggest challenge. It’s also tough to make sure everyone’s on the same page — that other crew members get Mr. Avery’s directions and notes and deliver on each need.”

Jenison High School, Singin' In The Rain, Jenison ThespiansWith leads comprised of juniors (Katherine Searcy, Jenna Bassett) and seniors (Ben Avery, Matt Wadsworth), this quartet has never been more ready to put on a show worthy to be called a Gene Kelly reprise. They also want to do their hall-of-fame teacher proud.

“The whole show is packed with energy! My character is trying to be a stage actress…at one point I pop out of a cake and that’s pretty exciting!” said Katherine.

“This role combines everything,” explained Matt. “Dancing, singing, and memorizing lines pose unforeseen hurdles. It’s like a puzzle that I have to put together.”

“Getting the courage to sing in front of my peers has been most challenging and intimidating, but also incredibly rewarding,” Jenna shared.

Join us next week for our last spring play in the Jenison High School Auditorium!

Playing Nightly, March 20-24 at 7 pm

For more information about Singin’ in the Rain, please click HERE to view the Jenison High School Thespian’s website.