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‘SHREK’ unites: Musical brings together kids from across district

  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

    Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

    Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

    Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

    Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

    Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

    Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

    Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

    Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

    Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

    Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.

  • The original movie poster for Shrek.

    The original movie poster for Shrek.

  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.
  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.
  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.
  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.
  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.
  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.
  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.
  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.
  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.
  • Rehearsal photos from Shrek The Musical Jr.
  • The original movie poster for Shrek.

If the major takeaway from Shrek The Musical Jr. is acceptance, diversity and working together, the cast of the upcoming production of the show is a living imitation of art.

The musical, which runs this weekend at the Franklin Opera House, is a massive undertaking involving the whole of SAU 18, from kindergartners to high school seniors.

“These projects kind of seemed like great ways to expand the arts” in the district, said Jule Finley, Franklin High School drama program coordinator and director of the show. “The elementary school and middle school have great arts and music programs, but they don’t have a drama program. I do stuff with kids during the summer, but there’s nothing (theater related) during the school year.”

Finley’s headed up the drama program at Franklin High for 20 years, but she decided last year to go for her master’s degree. As part of her program, she decided to try an experiment. She wanted to see not only how a district production would work, but also how the production and its themes could be integrated into the curriculum. “It was really successful,” Finley said of last year’s production of The Wiz. “It’s kind of becomes a huge, district-wide project that becomes more than just the show itself. . . . These projects have also given a whole lot of other kids an opportunity to get up on stage and be a part of a live theater production.”

Finley explained that before The Wiz, it was really only high school kids that had the chance to do that. And, she said, exposing more kids to theater at a younger age is going to ultimately support the high school program.

“Sadly in the past, unless kids just for some reason have this ingrained desire to be on stage, they would get to the high school freshman year and they had never done it before,” she said. “So it would take a year or two of convincing them that it was something fun and worthwhile, and then they would finally do it and say, ‘Wow this is really fun I wish I would have done this sooner.’

“So I’m hoping that this will start kids off at a younger age just like they would with football and anything else – finding that love and passion for it when they are younger and want to continue doing it when they are older.”

Others are jumping on board, she said, with even more teachers and advisers in the district offering support and joining in on the project this year than last.

“When everyone is creating the projects,” Finley said, “it makes a moment where everyone in the district comes together for one thing. Other than that, we really don’t get to come together as a unified group. We kind of work independently of each other. So it’s kind of nice to do something like this.”

That feeling extends to the kids in the production as well. Through the teamwork of a theatrical production, particularly one of this scale, they’re making friends outside of their typical networks and grades.

James Jason, the 18-year-old senior at Franklin High School who plays Shrek, said that those connections make it easier for students moving from one school to another. They start a new year and a new school with a built-in group of friends.

Finley said the multi-age group allows younger kids to be around teens who can serve as good role models.

“They really have risen to the occasion,” Finley said. “They don’t get to do what most high school drama kids get to do, which is just be with their other high school friends and do a show. They have responsibilities, which includes watching out for the younger kids, helping them. I have a lot of high school kids who have to literally manage the 45 kindergarten through fourth-graders they have during the show, making sure that they are safe and they are ready, and help them with their makeup.”

Jason said he’s relished that part of the experience.

“Overall, it’s been really great,” he said. “I’ve been really trying to demonstrate to all my teachers and my instructors this year that I can really be a leader. . . . The kids get antsy backstage, but I try to tell them they have to keep quiet and that you have to try to treat each rehearsal like it’s the real show. I try and take my time and explain the seriousness of it. The kids are really great. They’re fun to work with. They’re all like, ‘Oh my God, it’s Shrek!’ And I’m like, ‘Yep, it’s Shrek all right.’ They make the show more enjoyable for everyone.”

Shrek The Musical Jr. runs today through Sunday at the Franklin Opera House, located at 316 Central St. in Franklin. Tickets are $12 for today’s performance and $14 to $16 for the rest of the run. Show times are 7:30 p.m. today, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday. For ticket information, call 934-1901, email info@franklinoperahouse.org or go to franklin operahouse.org.

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