By Nathan Ham
A long-standing tradition of presenting an annual musical production enters its 30th year for the Watauga High School drama department.
This year, the Playmakers will be presenting “Cinderella Enchanted” starting this Thursday, April 19 and lasting through Saturday, April 21. The musical will take place each night at 7 p.m.
Tickets are available for purchase at the school’s front office from now through opening day.
Saturday’s showing will also feature an open gala celebrating 30 years of theater at Watauga High School. Those who have performed in the past are invited to attend. The gala will also honor the directors of the show, Sarah Miller and Zach Walker, who were presented with the North Carolina Theater Conference Excellence in Teaching Award.
Miller, who is a graduate of Watauga High School, was in the first Playmakers performance at Watauga as a student and has since returned as a teacher. Walker has been at Watauga for almost five years now.
Each year, the performance is designed to put all aspects of performing together, everything from dancing and singing to tech work and knowing how to put a stage together.
“It’s a performing arts department production. We incorporate musicians, artists and actors alike. We try to involve every aspect of the performing and visual arts department,” Walker said. “It’s the largest performance we have of the year and we pride ourselves on really getting the kids into a career, tech-prep, professional environment so the skills that they are learning here they can carry into whatever arena or profession they decide to do.”
According to Miller, there are typically more than 100 students involved in the performance either on stage or working with the technical aspects of the performances such as sound and lighting.
“We like to think we’re creating a welcome, safe-harbor environment. Everybody has got to feel a sense of belonging. We don’t cut anybody from the show. If you want to be in it, we’ll find a place,” said Miller. “We enjoy what we do and we enjoy the community support and we’re grateful to have it.”
Even with the numerous days of bad weather and school postponements, the performance crew has hardly missed a beat in rehearsals, putting in the hard work and getting ready to perform the finished product.
“When you can step back and look at it, this is a place where 100 people can come to share a love for theater and for musicals. It’s very humbling and surreal to think about that, then tack on to that, there’s 600 people in the audience coming to see it. Being around that many people interested in theater is awesome,” said senior Andrew Brown, who is playing the part of Prince Charming.
Emma Bednar, a senior who is playing Cinderella in the musical, is also excited to be a part of such a large-scale performance.
“People in the show are really supportive, so it’s not only fun being onstage, but offstage as well,” Bednar said. “You get so much great feedback, and there is a family aspect and energy to the show. We feed off each other, and each group is in the moment.”
Since this performance is more of a musical than your average play, it brings more appreciation of combining acting, singing and dancing all being combined into one.
“In a musical, you get that music aspect so the feeling is a little different. We not only show the love for theater but we show this love for music and the love for dancing,” said senior Katlyn Woolard, who is playing the role of Queen Constantina. “Everyone that comes is usually excited, they’ve seen other shows so they know what they’re expecting. You can feel that exciting energy and you feed off of that and it makes you really happy to know that they’re excited to see you.”
Sophomore Alice Knight plays The Fairy Godmother and echoed the sentiments of the other cast members in the show about how much this performance means to them and the audience.
“Large scale musicals like this are such a community focused thing. You get excited because the house is excited to see you tell a story and to celebrate the work. It’s awesome to see the pay off after so many people have put so much work into the show,” Knight said. “It’s such a focused and collaborative work, it makes me want to work harder myself. This show matters so much to Mrs. Miller and Mr. Walker and every member of the cast, and it matters to me because I want to be a part of this community. This program has become so amazing that it make me want to rise. It makes me want to do my best and to put my best out there because I know the people around me are going to support me, and that they are doing their best as well.”
These productions certainly highlight the talent of these young singers, actors and musicians, but also serve as a reminder of what can be achieved when you work hard and want to put in the effort each and every day to get better at something.
“Set the bar high, because at the end of the day, I believe kids really want to work hard and push themselves. They don’t always do it the first time, but that’s okay. The benefit of hard work for the sake of the work and for the sake of the ensemble is something you don’t often get to practice but it is a life skill that is required,” said Miller. “We think a lot of life skill preparation happens along the course of this production every year as well.”