Nothing is better than live theater. And nothing is like watching a live production by kids from our community.
Last week I wrote about how Northwest Cabarrus High School was performing "Moby Dick: The Musical." Now I want to let you know about Harris Road Middle School's production of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."
Directing a play is not just for those who majored in drama, as Megan York, a science teacher at Harris Road Middle, can prove.
"I graduated from the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics and I went to Bryn Mawr College for a degree in physics," York said. "I started doing theater in high school and directed my first play as a senior at NCSSM. It was an enormous amount of work, but I guess I got addicted to it."
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"I directed two shows in college and have done one each year that I've taught," York said. "Last year, when I started at Harris Road Middle School, I began a drama club from scratch."
For the past six months, the students in her drama club have been feverishly rehearsing so everything will be ready for two shows this week.
"I have over 50 kids in the club, and every one of them is involved in something for the play," she said. "In addition to actors, we have students drawing, painting and moving scenery."
Although there have been various stage versions of "Alice in Wonderland," they share the same idea. It's a timeless tale of a little girl who falls down a rabbit hole and journeys into a land of talking animals, talking flowers, animated chess pieces and babies that turn into pigs. Her students are having great fun portraying those characters.
"Theater is such a fascinating art form," York said. "I really feel it allows for a kind of creativity we don't see anywhere else. Within the confines of a script and a director's notes there is enormous freedom of expression, and once the kids tap into that they really love exploring it."
Last year York's drama club performed Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The money they raised from ticket sales is funding this year's production.
"Every rehearsal is a little different. Every performance is a little different, and that really leads to a very fresh feeling about the play every day," she said. "Once the kids are onstage in front of an audience, I get to hide in the wings and really let them soar."
York may be a seventh-grade science teacher, but she has a palpable passion for the arts as well.
"I love doing theater, and I love working with my drama club kids. They work so hard for so long, and they are some of the nicest, most creative, most kind children I've ever worked with," she said. "I've watched new friendships form, and shy children come out of their shells, and talent blossoming.
"It is extraordinary to see them perform, and to experience their joy after a performance. I wouldn't trade it for anything."
You can catch Harris Road Middle School's production of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Northwest Cabarrus High School. Tickets are $5, available at the door. Admission is free for age 4 and younger.