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Jets Theatre takes major awards at SETC

“The Jungle Book” Director Amy Patel, from left, congratulates her students Kyle McCormick, Andrew Pharo, Brittney Quach and Tad Hutt for their selection to “All Star Cast” at Southeastern Theatre Conference. CONTRIBUTED
James Clemens Theatre presented “The Jungle Book” at Southeastern Theatre Conference in Lexington, Ky. CONTRIBUTED

MADISON – For the second consecutive year, James Clemens Theatre represented Alabama at Southeastern Theatre Conference and earned prestigious awards for “The Jungle Book.”

James Clemens won “Best Costume Design.” Costume crew included Caleb Clark, Bri Harris, Kristen Keller, Sarah Matar and Shelby Reece. Parent volunteer Shantel Layman has assisted since James Clemens started a theatre program five years ago, technical director Mike Merritt said.

“We’re really glad costumes were recognized by the judges. Almost every costume was built from scratch. The animal designs incorporated the Indian culture and animal characteristics,” director Amy Patel said

Actors named to “All Star Cast” were Tad Hutt, Kyle McCormick, Andrew Pharo and Brittney Quach. “Pharo played Mowgli the Man-Cub. McCormick and Hutt played his buddies Bagheera the Panther and Baloo the Bear, respectively. “The three of them were a fantastic trio. They played off each other so well,” Patel said.

Quach played Mowgli’s mother, “a role not in most versions. In ours, Mowgli goes back into the village and meets his birth mother. It’s a beautiful scene. You could truly hear a pin drop every time Andrew and Brittney played it,” Patel said.

Held in Lexington, Ky., SETC held classes, auditions and performances at Hilton Inn, Hyatt Regency, downtown arts center, opera house and children’s theatre.

“We’re most proud of our students for making it to SETC and being one of 20 shows in the entire Southeastern United States as representative of our state. Our kids had a phenomenal show on March 3,” Merritt said. “Mrs. Patel and I were overwhelmed with joy after watching their work.”

For camaraderie, James Clemens helped Opelika High School in their ‘load out.’ Opelika reciprocated for the Jets.

SETC’s workshops for students and teachers are “truly the highlight — an educational experience. We’re proud of our students taking the workshops and bringing back knowledge to help us grow our program in new directions,” Merritt said.

”SETC is a very difficult journey with fundraising, additional rehearsals, performances and logistical planning for nearly 90 people,” Merritt said. “However, our students reap benefits if they take advantage of educational opportunities at the festivals.”

After SETC auditions, student actors received 360 callbacks from college representatives.

“We definitely won’t go to SETC every year. Sometimes, we’ll opt out because of excessive costs and time commitment,” he said. If James Clemens is chosen to represent Alabama, “we’ll continue to work hard to offer our students numerous fundraising options for all to attend. Our booster club helped us process 10 different fundraisers in January.”

Merritt and Patel attribute the success to the students and community support. “It’s a group effort. We cannot do it without lots of other artists along the way,” he said.

James Clemens Theatre acknowledges Asbury Community Thrift Store for covering some student fees. “We thank Sen. Bill Holtzclaw and his office for securing a grant to cover nearly $3,000,” which the theatre program would have paid out-of-pocket for students who couldn’t pay expenses, Merritt said.

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