By Erica Moore
Communications Director Weakley County Schools
Students from several Weakley County middle schools are teaming up to deliver an exciting performance in Weakley Playhouse Jr.’s upcoming performance of Alice in Wonderland.
With the Weakley Playhouse Middle School Drama Club is in its third year, this is the first performance to have students representing more than one of the district’s schools.
Students involved in the show include:
Martin Middle School Eighth Grade: Izaiah Chua, Olivia Haskins, Will Simmons, Diamyne Vilchis, Lena Zimmerman; Seventh Grade: Madi Adcock, Tayler Bray, Lydia Britt, Canyon Chandler, Luke Craddock, Erin Crawford, Ellie Freeman, Cody Gibson, Peyton Lund, Annastyn Morgan, Blaine Newsome, Kella Simmons, David Smart, Alexis Waldon, Charlie Waldon; Sixth Grade: Natalie Copeland.
Dresden Middle School Eighth Grade: Lily’ana Smith, Chesney Vaughn; Seventh Grade: Jo Winstead; Sixth Grade: Ella Jane Bynum.
Greenfield Middle School Seventh Grade: Bo Porter.
Students in the production have enjoyed building relationships with students at other schools.
Ella Bynum, sixth grader at Dresden Middle, said that making new friends has been her favorite part of being in this year’s production.
“It’s been a lot of fun meeting students from other schools and making new friends,” said Bynum.
Greenfield seventh grader Bo Porter agrees that, “Meeting people at other schools has been the most fun. I also performed in A Christmas Carol, so it’s fun to be back in a performance with some of those friends again,” Porter said.
Three Martin Middle seventh graders are excited to be back on stage in this year’s performance.
Lydia Britt, Annastyn Morgan, and Charlie Waldon all performed in last year’s spring play, WCKY. They talked about why the roles this year are even more exciting.
“Sixth grade was all about building a foundation, and now Mr. Kane has placed more trust in us. We have even more important roles on stage this year. Now we’re building from that to help us as we grow into performing in high school theatre,” said Waldon.
Morgan commented that, “I love how Weakley Playhouse is open to all of our county. One of my best friends is in Drama Club, but she’s from another school. It’s awesome that it’s not exclusive and we can meet and learn from students from schools around the county.”
Britt is excited to be a part of an ambitious production.
“Unlike last year’s show, this is a story that many people have read or seen. It’s exciting because there’s a lot of different elements to it. It has parts that are comedic and other parts that are serious, and it’s definitely more intricate than last year’s performance. It’s been a blast to work with the whole cast and crew on it,” Britt shared.
As part of their final class project, the Theatre II Class students at Westview High help direct the Weakley Playhouse Junior production. Bryson Boyd, Sam Butero, Abby Collie, Stanley Dean, Lucy Oelrich, Kayleigh Hilt, and Avery Rogers have roles in either directing, stage managing, set design, construction, costuming, or audiovisuals.
Playhouse Director and Program Advisor Martin Kane says that it’s a great benefit to have his older students work with middle school students to help put on the show.
“It’s great because it gives the older students a chance to apply what they’ve learned in their theatre classes while also providing them with the chance to give back to younger students. Several in our group were in the Drama Club as middle schoolers, and now they are helping direct the play,” said Kane.
Lucy Oelrich, a Sophomore at Westview, was in the first ever Weakley Playhouse Middle School Drama Club performance of The Pirate Show. Just a couple short years later, she’s helping direct middle school students.
“It’s a pretty cool full circle moment that I was a part of that group, and now I get to lead the next generation of Weakley Playhouse kids along their journey. Being back there at Martin Middle has been surreal because memories have all come flooding back,” said Oelrich.
She believes that students respond well to good feedback throughout the theatrical process of putting on a performance.
“I try to give them the best positive feedback that I can,” Oelrich continued. “We’re really trying to show them support so they’ll stay interested in Drama Club through high school. Each of them are doing so well. They’re working hard and we know it’s going to pull together nicely,” she commented.
Kane said that student excitement and involvement is part of the momentum that’s being created through the culture that the group has been building around Theatre Arts.
“We’re working on building a culture where the older students teach and encourage the younger students so that they’ll feel confident in taking on leadership responsibilities. It’s important to support taking ownership of different aspects of the theatrical process like set design, costumes, and directing,” Kane said.
Kane is encouraged that he’s retaining students who are active in the program as well as increasing the number of new students who are interested in theatre arts from schools around the county.
“Because students can be a part of this program starting in sixth grade and all throughout high school, there’s an opportunity for students to serve in teaching roles. In passing on what they’ve learned to other students, it reinforces the techniques and strategies that I’m trying to teach them. It helps us build a stronger program,” Kane said.
The Weakley Playhouse Middle School Drama Club’s performances of Alice in Wonderland will in the Theatre at Martin Middle School at 7PM on Friday, March 31, and at 2PM and 7PM on Saturday, April 1. Tickets will be available at the door or online by visiting https://weakleyplays.ludus.com/index.php.
For more about Weakley County Schools, visit weakleycountyschools.com.