'Pivot Pointe' STARS Students Present Original Production
BY EMMA WITMAN
For most schools, the EOGs represent the culmination and application of most of what the entire school year has emphasized - a solid academic education. For STARS (Sandhills Theatre Arts Renaissance School), once they had completed the EOGs, students were allowed more time to focus on what for them was the result of all their hard word and progress - the school play.
"This really is a culmination of everything we do all year," principal Susan Kemple says. "We do have lots of performances that go on during the year, but this is the big one."
Thursday, June 10, through Saturday, June 12, at 7:30 p.m., STARS will present an original musical, "Pivot Pointe," at the Pinecrest High School's auditorium, and students from the third through eighth grades will be acting, singing and dancing. Meanwhile their peers will be backstage, handling the technical aspects of the production.
And in the weeks and months leading up to the play, students were designing costumes and writing the script and score to the play. All of this was done without ever having to meet after school.
Being awarded a charter by the state can be tricky. STARS holds onto its charter through upholding the philosophy of an education that incorporates and values equally the arts and academics.
As a charter school, there is a noncompetitive application process, and a lottery is used when the school is at capacity. Kemple stresses that artistic ability is not the key factor when children are looking to go to an arts school.
"When we have kids that come here, we aren't looking for necessarily the most talented," she says. "We're looking for kids who are really dedicated and interested, because we feel that that drive is what's going to make them a better perfomer and a better student."
The decision to perform an original work with a script, music and lyrics written by students was a bold one, and makes this play all the more gratifying for students
"They're very self-motivated when it comes to the show - it's theirs," says Kemple.
The play itself is a sort of statement on the very existence of the school itself, and its identity as an arts school. The plot revolves around a girl, Julie, who wants to be a dancer, but her father isn't keen on the idea, skeptical she can be successful in such an "unpractical" field. However eventually, through spending time with Julie and her classmates at the local arts school, he rediscovers his own love for the arts, and his daughter.
Carolyn Garner, 15, is an eighth-grader and will be playing Julie. She wrote "a good 75 percent of the music," she says.
She will be going to Pinecrest High School next year, which Kemple notes has an outstanding theater program. Garner says she intends on participating in theater there.
The play's youngest participant is Greg Gibson, who will be turning 9 in June.
Gibson, who plays a young version of the father, says he isn't too nervous. This play is, in fact, even for the third-grader, his second production.
"I was in 'James and the Giant Peach,'" he says.
The play represents an even greater journey for the eighth-graders, such as Garner, and Jesse Howland, who has been at STARS since kindergarten.
"It's been fun, but sometimes definitely a lot of hard work goes into it," Howland says. "But this is my seventh production. It's rewarding whenever you're done."
Some students, such as Joshua Drakeford in the role of Mr. Wallace, seemed more excited about going to high school than sad at leaving middle school.
But Sierra Simms was not reluctant to admit her sadness over her time at STARS ending. "I've cried every day since last week," soon-to-be graduate Simms says.
But most students expressed a similar desire to continue with the arts in their academic careers.
The methods of STARS may be unorthodox, but the results are tangible, Kemple says. "We encourage people to come and see the show and come to our school and sit in classroom and really see what goes on here," she says. "That's the only way you really know."
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and are available at the door.
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