Students learn real-life lessons on stage

Carrie Click
Post Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – It’s 7 p.m. on Wednesday night and a bunch of Glenwood High students are still at school. Tonight, they won’t leave until about 9:30 p.m.

They’re in the final weeks of rehearsal for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” the school’s spring musical – and there are dance steps to perfect, costumes to adjust, and notes to hit before opening night on April 18.

Plays and musicals are an expected part of any school’s calendar year. But what purpose do they serve beyond sheer entertainment?

Gayla Rowe-Gaddis is a Glenwood Springs High School English teacher and the director of “Joseph.” Rowe-Gaddis, along with music director Jeannie Miller and orchestra director Rob Merritt, have produced numerous musicals at the school.

“Being in these productions teaches so much,” she said. “The kids learn to problem solve and to work together, and learn how to assimilate and acclimate. A production is always fluid, always in a state of change, and these students learn how to work with that change.”

There are other lessons, too – about history and literature.

“Joseph” is a rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice based on Chapter 39 in Genesis.

Joseph, the favorite of Jacob’s 12 sons, is sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. He becomes the Pharaoh’s right-hand man, saves the empire from a drought and rescues his family to boot.

“We researched the period,” Rowe-Gaddis said. She said in order to make the sets and costumes authentic, kids researched Egypt and chariots – and even facial hair.

Rowe-Gaddis pointed to a giant portrait of King Tutankhamen the kids painted that dominates the stage. On his chin is a long braided goatee.

“We weren’t going to add the goatee until we researched it,” she said. “And we have a chariot in `Joseph,’ so we researched chariots to make sure ours matched the period.”

`Around 80 students are involved in “Joseph,” which includes the actors, dancers, musicians, stagehands and lighting crew. Many of the students are also involved in other extracurricular activities, like sports and debate. During production, these students go to school in the morning and don’t get home until nearly 10 p.m.

Senior Brock Milhorn is one of those students. He has the title role in “Joseph,” and is on the school’s baseball team. Sometimes rehearsals have to be scheduled around the team’s games. But Milhorn said his busy schedule is worth it.

“There’s a different high you get from hitting a home run and being on stage hearing the roar of applause,” he said.

Milhorn said being involved in school productions “forces me to be an extrovert. It gives me a chance to be someone else, and not have any inhibitions,” he said.

School plays and musicals can also bring kids from different groups together for a common goal.

“It gives us a chance to work together and get to know people outside of our friends,” said freshman Vonnie Davis.

“Being in a musical teaches you to pay attention, and learn how your part affects the whole and everyone else,” said sophomore Kim Sokal.

Sophomore Sarah Vasquez has learned about making a commitment – and sticking with it.

“Once you start, you have to finish,” she said of the work that goes into a finished production. “You do what it takes to see it through.”

Sophomore Amber Ryskamp said acting in “Joseph” has taught her about her boundaries.

“You have to be yourself before you can be willing to act different,” she said.

Senior Sarah Gabriel has multiple roles in “Joseph,” and is the musical’s student director – or as Rowe-Gaddis describes her, “my right hand.”

“We have to really prioritize our time,” Gabriel said of the demands on students’ calendars. “During rehearsals, if we’re not on stage, we’re in the pit doing homework. You need to be really dedicated to spend 14 to 15 hours a day at school.”

Gabriel said participating in the school’s drama program “helps so much with confidence. Kids involved in shows tend to speak up more in class, state opinions and be passionate. A couple kids have really come out of their shell as a result of being in school productions.”

Rowe-Gaddis said she’s also seen students open up.

“Sometimes, there are kids that just don’t fit in,” she said. “But school plays and musicals is where they find they’re home.”

And Brock Milhorn said there’s another positive aspect of being in a school production.

“Some jocks may make fun of it, but this is where the girls are,” he said, divulging a known incentive for male participation in school productions. “There are tons of girls.”

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

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