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In a recent “Sittin’ With the Supe” podcast, Superintendent Dr. Ed Nichols discussed theatre programs with Dana Herwig and Amy Patel. In the photo from 2017, James Clemens High School competed in the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Lexington, Ky. CONTRIBUTED

Nichols’ podcast avers multi-disciplines feed theatre

MADISON – “Sittin’ With the Supe,” the podcast by Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Ed Nichols, recently discussed the far-reaching benefits and impact of MCS’ theatre community.

Theatre in school is a ‘community’ by merging students of different personalities and backgrounds who become interdependent on each other’s part in the complicated steps to produce a play or a show in musical theatre.

Nichols said MCS has “fantastic theatre groups in our elementary, middle and high schools.” He consulted with theatre directors Dana Herwig from Columbia Elementary School and Amy Patel at James Clemens High School.

Each school year, Columbia produces a full, hour-long musical, which is a junior version of a Broadway or a Disney show. In 2021, they presented “Frozen.”

This year’s production will be “Aladdin Jr.” on Jan. 20-21, 2023, at Zompa Auditorium at Bob Jones High School.

In August, Columbia students audition with a monologue and singing part of a song. “We do choreography and do ‘peat and repeat’ (to encounter again). We get students comfortable to perform for an audience,” Herwig said.

The Columbia cast rehearses twice each week from 3 to 5 p.m. Assisting the production are two teacher sponsors; administrative volunteers, like the producer; choreographer; and backstage manager, Herwig said.

“The kids start out unsure . . . shy or say they can’t dance or act,” Herwig said. She later enjoys watching their faces come alive and seeing them become self-secure.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re the lead or the cutest little tree. Everything you do matters,” Herwig said. “You learn to be a part of a team, really more than being part of an athletic department.”

“We need everyone to come out and support us for ‘Aladdin Jr.’ We are a self-sustaining club for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders — not a class,” Herwig said.

Herwig values working with theatre. “My daughter started (in plays) at seven years old. Now, she’s a senior in college,” Herwig said.

At James Clemens, students have been busy in rehearsals for district and state competitions. They perform for judges at Trumbauer festivals, an Alabama theatre competition for 80-plus years.

“Students take their Individual Entries or IEs to district, like Solo & Ensemble for band,” Patel said. Drama students can enter duets, solos, dramatic or comedic readings, set design and other categories.

“Both James Clemens and Bob Jones both advanced to state festival with their one-act plays this year,” Patel said. “Three schools were selected; Madison had two of those selections.”

“Bob Jones has had a thriving theatre program for years, long before James Clemens was built. I love the support that I’ve always gotten from Dwayne Craft and Mary Davis, and now Jesse Tilton,” Patel said.

“When they do well, we do well” (and vice versa), Patel said.

“More than acting goes into the curriculum of drama . . . lots of science, math, history and English,” Nichols said.

“Students get the opportunity to write, direct, work in tech and act. Some students prefer technical theatre and not appear on stage; they like set design, lighting, sound, makeup and hair styling,” Patel said.

“A performance is a ‘ballet’ with the work backstage, in the pit, on stage,” Nichols said. “Students get past the fear of being in front of people. Theatre has a way of bringing different aspects of the school together.”

For some students, theatre is their ‘team,’ Patel said.

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