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Arts and Entertainment

Stage might: Theater club grows at West Charlotte High School
Thespians take stage with rejuvenated program
Published Wednesday, October 17, 2018 2:19 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

West Charlotte High School theater teacher John Harris leads a class on campus. Harris was hired for the 2018-19 academic year, part of the school’s commitment to provide students an opportunity to pursue theater for the first time in over a decade.

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Theater lives at West Charlotte High School.

Three years from the inception of a drama club, and a school year removed from their first musical in nearly two decades, financial constraints cannot stifle the campus’ theatrical pursuits any longer.  

West Charlotte English Department Chair Franchone Bey, one of three teachers to launch the club, oversaw last school year’s musical “In the Heights.” She has been instrumental in the school’s involvement in the Hamilton Education Program (EduHam), which provides students the opportunity to see “Hamilton” Nov. 1 at Belk Theater, and compete with other Title I schools for a chance to perform in an original piece of their own creation prior to the show based on their EduHam studies in the classroom.

“The spark was lit with ‘In the Heights,’ but it started way before then,” said Bey, who is also the Drama Club’s advisor. “We’ve always been an artsy school. If you look upstairs in our tech booth, you’ll see the names of all the plays and musicals that have been done before. It had a very thriving performing arts community here at the school.

“It’s just a matter of recharging the school, and bringing that back. We have a new theater teacher on board, who is doing a straight play in the fall and a musical in the spring. Hopefully all of this will bring us back into the mix.”

West Charlotte’s addition of theater teacher John Harris shows the school’s commitment to providing students an opportunity to pursue theater. It is their first theater class in over a decade.

“I am in love with the theater, and any time you can convince me that you are someone else just, because you walked on the stage, it’s spellbinding,” said Harris, the son of theater professors and an alumnus of Morehouse College in Atlanta. “I think it is harder than learning an instrument. I think it is harder than learning a trade. It is becoming a whole other person. If you can get them, especially the people who know you and watch you to say, ‘wow, I really thought you were someone else,’ you did it.”

West Charlotte has two upcoming productions:  Alan Ball’s “5 Women Wearing the Same Dress” Nov. 8-10 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 11 at 3 p.m. in the West Charlotte auditorium and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “21 Chump Street” in the spring. Students like Vanessa Lucas, who plays Francess in the fall production, and junior Maurice Collins, who plays Tripp Davenport next month, also performed “In the Heights.”

“I’m excited that I have so many lines, but I’m also kind of nervous, because this is only my second time doing this,” Lucas said.

Said Collins: “It’s very different from the character I played before.”

Exploring various types of theater, such as musicals versus straight plays, showcases different challenges in the craft.

“I don’t have to learn any songs, and [last year] that was my main focus,” said junior Kiahri Craig, a veteran of “In the Heights” who plays Mindy in “5 Women Wearing the Same Dress.” “Now I have to shift only words and straight play, and focus on actions instead of the music and dancing.”

For others like freshmen Kaliyah Mcillwaine and La’Kena Williamson, who plays Meredith in the upcoming production, this is their first high school theater experience.

“It’s exciting how we’re going to have to be this other person, how we’re going to have to change the way we act, how we move, how we operate, just to play this certain character, and just see how it changes us,” Mcillwaine said.

Said Harris: “You get to see exactly how different and the same all these ladies are, and how different and the same all these ladies are to you. You have some Trisha in you. You have some Mindy in you. Vanessa can identify with Mindy.”


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