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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#JPSReads Comes Alive on Stage!

miii2248As a partnership to #JPSReads, the Junior High theatre department presents, James and the Giant Peach starting today and running through Sunday afternoon. We hope that families all over the district participated in the Read Aloud, JPSReads, earlier this school year and read the classic Roald Dahl story but if it’s new to you, don’t worry, it’s a heartwarming tale of an underdog you’ll love.

James is orphaned early in life and goes to live with his aunt who treats him as a servant, rather than a young boy. He soon meets a mysterious old man who offers him a magic bag of crocodile tongues that will make his life better. When James accidentally spills the tongues all over the ground, he is surprised to see an enormous peach grow on the sidewalk! The giant peach becomes a magical place of fantasy and friendship for James and, of course, you’ll need to read the book or buy a ticket this weekend to hear the rest!

miii2237When Director, Holly Florian, was anticipating this years musical, she considered the amazing batch of talent her students bring to the table. While the audience is aware that the actors on stage are junior high students, what they may not realize is that by the end of the weekend, the entire show is student-run. They are in charge of the lights, sound, stage management, direction, and set changes. They are assisted by a couple of high school students in their tasks but they act mainly in the role of mentor to these ambitious junior highers!

The cast auditioned back in mid-October and at the end of that month they began their rehearsals. Near showtime, they are rehearsing from 5-9pm every weeknight! Prior to the holiday break they have memorized all of their lines but Ms Florian encourages them from this point on to really let the characters become their own; to have fun with the lines and the story. She sees their potential and wants them to have the opportunitiy to shine as a result of their hard work and dedication.

miii2102Just like our high school students say year after year, Ms Florian believes that her students love being in the theatre program because it provides a sense of belonging and community. Students are able to meet new people and make friends with other students they may have never met otherwise. Because of this, she is especially pleased with the journey that James makes in this story. As the director, she is able to see the journey of students, their progress and self-confidence throughout the rehearsal season. By the end “it’s amazing to see how far they’ve come and that’s what this story is all about: self-confidence.”

If you’d like to see these talented students live, in action, you can purchase your tickets here. It’s a great opportunity to bring the book to life and remind your kids of the importance of and meaning found in reading and stories!

Break a leg, Junior High students! We know you will be incredible, not only this weekend, but always!

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Peter Pan Has a Prequel? Of Course it Does!

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Before you see Jenison theatre perform “Peter Pan” this winter, you’ll want to know the back story, of course!

Director and theatre teacher, Todd Avery, has been waiting to perform “Peter and the Star Catcher” for three years, ever since he saw it performed in Chicago and watched it win five Tony Awards in 2012. He was drawn to the unique qualities of the show including wonderful opportunities for an ensemble cast, creative scenery and the need for the audience to participate through their imagination. “Everything is very suggested. For example, we don’t have swords that we fight with, we fight with plungers. The actors create a ship with just a big piece of rope and their bodies and a couple crates, so the concept is just really interesting. It’s a unique way of storytelling and it’s a style called Story Telling Theatre.”

miii4226It’s not a traditional show where the actors play a single role. In this show, the actors are playing multiple roles, keeping track of where they need to be at all times and even wearing multiple costumes on top of each other!

While the winter musical performances are stories told through music, this weekend’s show is a “play with music” and students filling this role had very challenging music to master. All of the music is performed by a pianist and percussionist providing exciting sounds that take on a character of its own.

Sophomores Emma Byerwalter and Caden Hembrough play the leading roles of Molly and Peter respectively and are both alums of the theatre program beginning in junior high and taking on their biggest roles to date with this show. Emma loves her character and says it’s her favorite of her theatre career, so far. “Molly is confident, strong-willed and down to earth.” Caden says that he enjoys playing Peter who starts off being quiet and mad at the world and builds confidence and leadership skills throughout the show.

miii4287As so many other theatre students have said in the past, the Jenison theatre community has meant “everything” to Emma and Caden. “You make friends with everyone and they all count on each other. There’s no exclusion.” says Caden. Emma adds, “It’s a really open community. No matter who you are, you are welcome here.”

Mr Avery knows that this group of students is ready and well prepared to tackle this challenging and entertaining show. “I knew this was going to be a particularly challenging show and I saw some great things in [these students] the last couple of years, even back in junior high, and I knew they could do it. And they’ve risen to the challenge and it’s like nothing they’ve ever done before.”

If you’d like to spend some time this weekend getting to know the beginning stories of Peter Pan, Wendy and the rest of the Peter and the Star Catcher crew, check ticket availability and purchase them here.

Break a leg, Jenison Thespians! We can’t wait to see you shine!

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JHS Theatre Says, “Let Your Freak Flag Fly!” in Shrek the Musical

MIII2429Last week the Jenison Thespians amazed audiences with their talent and passion in their performance of Shrek the Musical!

MIII1804The story in the musical version is very similar to the movie from 2001 we all know and love with a few minor changes and song additions. Shrek is an ogre who finds solace in a lonely swamp until it is invaded by ousted fairy tale characters from Lord Farquaad’s kingdom when he deems them “freaks.” But Shrek doesn’t want them either. Preferring his solitude to a overly crowded neighborhood, Shrek visits Farquaad to convince him to take the characters back. Farquaad decides to let Shrek rescue Princess Fiona who has long been trapped by a ferocious dragon in return for his swamp. Along the way, Shrek is saddled with Donkey, a chatty but charming compatriot in his adventure. Fiona is less than impressed with her rescuer and even less so with Farquaad and through a continued series of songs, fun and love, Shrek and Fiona end up together and the fairy tale characters get their new home after all. You could say “they live happily ever after…”

MIII1744Director Todd Avery hopes to spread the message about individuality being accepted and celebrated which is a main theme of the production. “As the song, “Let Your Freak Flag Fly!” indicates, EVERYONE has something “freakish” about them and those traits should be celebrated and not suppressed.  People [or in this case, fairy tale creatures] are different.  However, those differences are a GOOD thing and shouldn’t be judged by others.”

There are many  behind the scenes teams including set design and construction, sound and tech, pit orchestra, costume design, hair and makeup and stage management.  Kelsey Shannon is a senior who is the crew leader for the hair and make up team and enjoys being part of productions and the ability to be yourself. “Nobody’s judged, everyone’s accepting because you share the same passion.”

MIII2136Freshman, Ashley Hillson, playing the role of Princess Fiona loves being part of Jenison Theatre and makes her return to the stage after playing Arial in the Little Mermaid in last year’s Junior High musical. “The friendships you make here are so cool. Rehearsal doesn’t even feel like rehearsal anymore, it’s just everyone hanging out.”

Playing Shrek is senior Jacob Helm who says, “I feel like letting your freak flag fly is really important because it’s letting you show who you truly are, especially in theatre, which is why I think it’s so cool that we’re doing this show.  This is a place where we’re allowed to be who we really are without being judged.”

Ashley adds, “Anytime you are yourself people end up accepting you more and you end up finding  the people who are like you and when you’re yourself you’re a lot happier. No matter what you’re part of, just be willing to stay true to yourself and not feel like you need to be fake or hide.”

Congratulations to the entire cast and crew of Shrek! We are proud of your talents and we love letting our freak flag fly!MIII1765

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The Holiday Season is Time for the Arts!

With Thanksgiving just a week away and Christmas less than a month after that, our world is knee-deep in holiday plans. We create lists for groceries we need to buy, meals and cookies to make, cards to send and gifts to wrap. But in the midst of the flying reindeer and “silver bells,” wonderful celebrations are happening at Jenison Public Schools, too.

This week we’d like to highlight some of the very special events coming up across the district before the New Year, with arguably the most anticipated being the grand opening of Jenison Public Schools Center for the Arts!

Jenison Public Schools, Fine Arts Center

When this blog began over 100 weeks ago, we were just beginning to talk about this building — this dream — that we had for our students and our community. But when the time came to break ground, we got right to work. Now, looking back at photos from the summer of 2012, it’s amazing to think of how far we’ve come.

On behalf of the district, we’d like to invite you to one, or all, of the events that we have planned for the week after Thanksgiving. Whether it means attending the sneak peek, the ribbon cutting ceremony or the open house, we’d love to have you join us for this special moment in our collective history. Please see the image above for times.

Finally, please mark your calendars for these other exciting arts events. Because this list is not intended to be comprehensive, we encourage you to contact your child’s building leadership for concert times not included below.

JENISON HIGH SCHOOL HOLIDAY EVENTS: All located at Jension Center for the Arts (JCA)

12/10, 8 pm  Bands Christmas Concert

12/13-14, 7 pm  Festival of Plays

12/18, 7:30 pm  Choir/Orchestra Concert (Concert Orch, Sinfonia, Concert Choir)

12/19, 7:30 pm  Choir/Orchestra Concert (Symphony & Chamber Orchestra, Chorale, Advanced Women’s Choir, Chamber Choir)

JENISON JUNIOR HIGH HOLIDAY EVENTS: AT JCA

12/4, 7:30 pm  Jr High Choir Christmas Concert and Male Chorus

12/9, 7 pm  Jr High Orchestras

12/10, 6:30 pm  Jr High Bands

ELEMENTARY EVENTS: ALL AT JCA

**Elementary Honors Choir with Jr. High Choirs 12/4, 6:15 pm**

Bauerwood | 12/12, 7:30 pm  3rd, 4th, 5th grade

Bursley | 12/13, 7 pm 3rd, 4th, 5th grade (with Bursley Choir)

Pinewood | 12/11, 7:30 pm 3rd, 4th, 5th grade

Rosewood | 12/17, 7:30 pm 3rd, 4th, 5th grade (and choir students)

Sandy Hill | 12/16, 7:30 pm 3rd, 4th, 5th grade (and Spotlight Choir)

New Fine Arts Center On Track for December 2013 Completion

Brick by brick and nail by nail, the dreams of this community are being raised in grand fashion, pushing against the sky with regal determination. Slated for completion in December 2013, the Performing Arts Center (also referred to as the Fine Arts Center) is on-schedule and looking fantastic.

Boasting a 1,200 seat auditorium, dressing rooms, scene shop, multi-purpose room for smaller performances, and a whopping 90 foot stage, the Performing Arts Center will truly be a community gathering space where our students can shine with room enough to fully spread their wings.

In addition to the performance-related venues, this building will also become the new home for Superintendent Tom TenBrink and Jenison’s team of central office administrators. Parking will be accommodated in a new lot that will be tucked between the junior and senior high schools, as well as additional room south of the junior high and adjacent to the tennis courts.

 

Jenison’s Performing Arts Center will truly be a venue that will invite celebration. We eagerly await the evening when teachers, parents, students, and community members will be able to sit in the glow of a dimly-lit auditorium and watch the magic of theater and music unfold.