When Independence High School's production of "Grease" opens next weekend, drama teacher Paula Baldwin will have come full circle.
Baldwin got her start in acting at Mount Pleasant High School in Cabarrus County, and attended Catawba College on a drama scholarship. After earning her MFA in acting and directing at UNC Greensboro, she headed to New York City, where she lived and worked for eight years.
Restaurant management paid the bills but professional acting jobs fueled her passion for the stage.
Baldwin returned to Charlotte and was hired by the school system. She taught at Northeast Middle, then Mint Hill Middle for the past 16 years.
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This year she was able to return to high school, getting the chance to inspire kids in the same environment where her love for theater began.
"Grease," her first high school production and the first full-length musical at the school in a number of years, has presented several technical challenges. Baldwin said the school's sound system is inadequate, and the antiquated light board stopped working last week.
The auditorium, neglected over the years, also needs work.
All that hasn't stopped the cast and crew from giving their all.
Thirty-one actors, seven band members, six student crew members and eight staff members have worked together since Nov. 21 to put on what Baldwin says will be an amazing show.
"We have a tremendous number of talented students, and the staff has gone above and beyond to support us in every way possible," she said.
"From Principal Amy Dellinger to many faculty and staff members, they've all pitched in to make this show successful. I hope this sets the bar high for future productions ... and encourages even more students to get involved in theatre."