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Students end semester with pioneer production

Theatre arts students at Unicoi County High School took audiences back to a simpler time with their production of “Laura Ingalls Wilder: Voice of the Prairie.”
Last week’s performances shared the life story of Laura and the Ingalls family during the pioneer era and included many scenes adapted from the classic book series.
Lori Ann Wright, Theatre Arts instructor at UCHS, said the beginning Theatre Arts, or Drama I, class chose to perform “Voice of the Prairie” as their fall production from a selection of plays she provided to them.
“They had several scripts to pick from and they ended up choosing ‘Little House’ because most of them had good memories of watching the show or reading the books when they were young,” Wright said. “I approved of that choice wholeheartedly … it’s a show that had a holiday feel to it.
“There is something homey about ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and I think the kids picked up on that and made a good choice for a November production.”
Wright said the biggest challenge in staging a production with a group of students who have little or no previous theatre experience is overcoming the fear of being on stage – a challenge the class was able to overcome.
“I think the best way to overcome that is to slowly build their confidence. The first day of drama class everyone is afraid, but by the time curtain rises on that last show they never want to stop doing it,” Wright said. “I think that’s a slow process for most folks. I still have people who are nervous that first show, but once they went through that first show the rest were fairly pleasant for them.”
Overcoming this fear teaches an important lesson to the students, according to Wright.
“They learned they can achieve something; it’s confidence building,” she said. “They’re willing to take the risk of getting up on the stage in front of elementary school students, in front of their peers and their parents and they realize it’s worth that risk to do a good show. I think they did great with that.”
Being part of a theatre production also helps the students in other ways.
“Drama teaches a lot more than just theatre skills. It teaches a lot more than the parts of the stage or how to do a costume or a lighting grid,” Wright said. “I think it teaches confidence. More than anything else, it says if I work hard at something I can do it. It says I can start with just words on paper and end up with a show.”
Audiences were impressed with the drama students’ work in “Voice of the Prairie,” according to Wright.
“A comment I heard over and over was, ‘They did great, especially for a Drama I show,’” she said. “I think for beginning drama, they did a great job. In fact, I think for any level drama they did a great job. I was really proud.
“These students were extremely professional, they knew their lines ahead of schedule, were easy to work with and were definitely willing to help each other out. Our costume and stage crew, our lights and sound, and our backstage crew did a wonderful job. I couldn’t have asked for a more cooperative team,” Wright continued. “I think that showed. I think everyone who came to the production really enjoyed it. It brought back those fond memories of either reading or watching ‘Little House on the Prairie.’”
The performances of “Voice of the Prairie” represented the close of the UCHS fall theatre season and what Wright described as a “really great semester in drama.”
“We have done everything from library reading projects to the bluegrass band playing to Edgar Allan Poe to ‘Little House’ and it’s been a very full semester,” Wright said. “We can’t wait to start back in the spring.”
Cast and crew for “Voice of the Prairie” included: Teresa Huskins, Carter Powers, Natalie Blair, Laura Leon, Emily White, Gracie Edens, Victoria Bailey, Kayleigh Kent, Adam Birchfield, Dalton Spears, Hayden Allen, Zach Thelen, Cheyenne Rooker, Courtney Mosley, Cierra Murphy, Griffin Porche, Caleb Segars, Amanda Padgett, Cade McCurry, Desiree Barnett, Dylan Roberts, Jasmine Peterson, Margret Howell, Hope Bradley, Calloway Faircloth, Amanda Tilson, Rebecca Williams, Laken Honeycutt, Hannah Redshaw, Carina Church, Noah Silvers, Zach Wilson and Austin Roberts.

By Keeli Parkey
Staff Writer
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