County students come together for production of ‘Little Women: The Broadway Musical’ at Straughn auditorium

Published 1:00 pm Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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This weekend’s performance of “Little Women: The Broadway Musical” will bring together students from the county’s four high schools who have been working hard for their latest production.

The show, a production of Covington County Schools Collaborative Arts, will be the first event held in the new Straughn School Auditorium. Tina Shiver of Straughn High School and Jennifer Withrow of Pleasant Home School will serve as co-directors.

“We are always looking for shows to afford our students new and diverse opportunities. For the past two years, we have done Disney musicals and wanted to offer our students a show to broaden their experiences. Louisa May Alcott’s novel is such a beloved classic, that it simply felt right,” Shiver said.

“Little Women” is a literary classic that tells the story of four sisters as they leave childhood behind during the American Civil War.

“This show allows us to showcase the students involved in our program. As a newer musical from the early 2000s, it feels like those classic musicals. I love how it gives every character a solo or a duet where they all get to shine. There are leads, but they are all featured in really wonderful ways,” Withrow said.

The cast and crew for “Little Women” are comprised of nearly 40 students from across CCS schools. Withrow said they are divided almost evenly between the four schools of the area.

“This show, although not a younger children’s show, is a wonderful one that I hope introduces classic literature to a new generation. It is really special, tender, and just lovely all around,” she said.

“Folks can expect a sweet classic story with an all-student cast of relatable characters brought to life on a set designed, built, and managed by students. We are extremely proud of our student leadership team both in the cast and crew. When the students are involved in productions like this, they learn so much about themselves and how to work as part of a team. They grow in their talents and skill sets, learn time management skills, and mental toughness,” Shiver said.

Previous productions have been held at the LBW Dixon Center for the Performing Arts before the auditorium at Straughn was completed this year. Jerry Wishum coordinated the lighting and sound at LBW, but students will now take on that role.

“We have been so incredibly fortunate to have Jerry Wishum design the lighting and sound for us in past years who is a true treasure. However, this year, we will have a student, Karter Palmer, design the lighting plot and serve as the lighting engineer. We will also have a student call the show as stage manager, Reagan Bartholomew, for the very first time. We are excited to make this a truly student-led production,” Shiver said.

Currently, the collaborative musical is the only theater arts program accessible to the county’s high school students.

“Our system is always looking for new ways to provide opportunities for our students. Theatre provides a place where all students can come together, regardless of their school affiliation or talent area, to collaborate and put on a spectacular performance in a way they are most comfortable with,” Withrow said.

“The arts empower students who often have no other outlet for their creativity. It helps them find their ‘people’ and school becomes a place of joy and community. Therefore, it is imperative that we afford opportunities for testing their artistic limits and being challenged in them. We have students taking on leadership roles who never envisioned themselves as such, which is a beautiful moment to witness,” Shiver added.

According to Shiver, holding the event in Straughn’s new auditorium will be “exciting but also a little scary.”

“The partnership with LBWCC has been such an amazing experience. It afforded us the opportunity to learn how to function as a cast and crew, and we were really confident with that space. However, the students are up to the challenge of learning to operate in a new and incredible facility. We look forward to many more wonderful productions here at the Straughn School Auditorium,” she said.

Many community partners also came together to make the production possible.

“From businesses that have sponsored meals to individuals who allowed us to borrow their beautiful furniture, the community’s support has been invaluable. We would also like to thank Superintendent Shannon Driver and the school board for this beautiful space in which to perform,” Shiver said.

The Covington County Schools Collaborative Arts program added three team members this year. Those include Britta Lambert from Red Level School, Hope Hunt from Florala High School, and Kelsi Scruggs from the central office.

“We are working hard to see opportunities for students at all of our county schools grow. We are constantly trying to understand the obstacles that may prevent some students from participating and brainstorming about how to overcome those. To that end, we are super excited to add Britta, Hope, and Kelsi to the team this year,” Shiver said.

Show times for “Little Women” are on Friday, April 19, at 7 p.m. and two shows on Saturday, April 20 at 2 and 7 p.m.

Tickets are $10 each, and are available at each of the county high schools (Florala, Pleasant Home, Red Level, and Straughn), and in the Andalusia branch of CCB Community Bank.