JDHS kids close in on Scotland

Robert Newman, center, and the cast of "Pippin" rehearse for the Juneau Douglas High School Theater Department's spring production.

After more than a year of concentrated effort on behalf of many community members, the Juneau Douglas High School Theater Department is within reach of their goal to send 17 young actors to Scotland to participate in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Healthy attendance at this weekend’s three performances of “Pippin,” the JDHS Theatre Department’s latest show, will secure the students’ goal as a reality.


Theater director Michaela Moore said the students have worked very hard to get this far – not just in fundraising efforts, but in mastering the challenges of “Pippin,” the show they will be bringing to Scotland for four festival performances.

“It’s been a long hard road, and the money has been kind of daunting, so I think it’s just starting to hit these kids that ‘Oh! This is real. We really do get to go!’” Moore said this week.

The show is one of the most challenging the department has attempted, Moore said, and includes dance numbers is a variety of themes, choreographed in part by JDU’s Ricci Adan, a stretch for the cast of mostly non-dancers.

“I think all in all, this is the best show we’ve ever done. The kids are so amazing and they’ve come so far,” she said.

Moore said she chose “Pippin” for its broad scope, allowing multiple opportunities for showcasing her young talent.

“We have a lot of talented people in that mix, and I wanted every one of them to have a place to shine. ... As much as you can have a true ensemble show, I’d say its a true ensemble show. The other thing I wanted was a really involved chorus -- I didn’t want the chorus to be in a few numbers and then out.”

Another consideration was that “Pippin” works well without a set -- an important factor when you’re performing across the ocean. The costumes are also a highlight, she said.

The invitation to participate in the Fringe came from the American High School Theatre Festival, a group that invites only a small handful of high school theater departments based on an initial nomination, assessment and subsequent panel decision. Though the Fringe itself is open to anyone who wishes to perform, the AHSTF is highly selective, making JDHS’ involvement a huge honor for the school. In 2011, AHSTF received 2,200 applications from schools invited to apply, and selected only 48. Moore said she doesn’t know who initially nominated the school, but that she was thrilled at the opportunity.

The 17 students who will be going to Scotland are: Aaron Abella, Robert Newman, Ellis Notmeyer, Darian Perov, Megan Wright, Arianna Orford, Aria Moore, Rebecca Erickson, Roxie Hildebrand, Brita Fagerstrom, Cheyenne Siverly, Marina McDowell, Melissa Paradis, Ashleigh Watt, Harmony Wentz, Devyn Nichole House and Megan McAllister.

Six more students are participating in this weekend’s show, they are: Alisia Nelson, Emily Baumgartner, Lauren Shanley-DeBuse, Megan Sheufelt, Alex Peterburs and Keely Ewing.

The role of Pippin is played by Robert Newman, and the lead player is Aaron Abella.

Moore said the selection of Scotland-bound kids was based on their commitment to the theater – such as the number of shows they have been involved in -- as well as their willingness to fundraise, and ability to keep their grades up.

While they are there, the 17 kids, accompanied by four adult chaperones including Moore and her husband, music director Richard Moore, will also get to visit London and Shakespeare’s home town.

“We get to go tour Stratford, and work with the Royal Shakespeare Company in some workshops, and then see the company’s show that night. And we get to see two West End shows, and to tour London,” Moore said.

Once in Edinburgh, the students will have an opportunity to attend other Fringe Festival performances with the group. They will also be advertising for their own show through a street performance, another great opportunity for them, Moore said.

She hopes the community will enjoy seeing a sneak preview of what the students will be performing across the ocean.

“I think we’re going to represent our community really well,” she said. “And I hope people would want to see what were going to do.”

Excitement for the trip is already running high, Moore said. Though the road has been long and hard, the payoff is within sight. They are $15,000 short of their goal, and can hit it this weekend if the community supports them.

“If people will just come see the show, we can do it,” Moore said.


The JDHS musical will be performed in Juneau May 10 and 11, at 7 p.m. at the JDHS auditorium. One matinee will be performed at 2 p.m. Saturday May 11.

Another opportunity to support JDHS theater will be offered on Sunday: A Mothers Day cruise. Tickets are $50 per person and the cruise departs at 2 p.m. from Auke Bay. For more, visit www.jdhsdrama.com/


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