Reflections on Becoming A Mad Jester – A Open Letter to the Cast and Crew of High School Musical and to Those Who Support High School Arts and Those Who Don’t
The curtain closed on my theater career on Saturday night, December 4th after 6 performances with the Mad Jesters of Ellsworth High School in the musical "High School Musical". It was one of the most fun things I have done in recent years, as well as one of the scariest!
When Jasmine Ireland asked me to play Jack Scott, the announcer in High School Musical in the early Fall I thought she was pulling my leg. But when she explained why, I was honored and so happy to take part. Then I saw the script and I was petrified. I had a lot of lines... and I mean a lot. At this stage of my life I'm trying not to forget things, not learn the lines to a 2 hour play! But, when she explained that I didn't have to memorize my lines, I could read them from the announcer's booth I was in!
So I started going to rehearsals. Now keep in mind I graduated from high school in 1978. For those of you who aren't great at math, that's 43 years ago! My high school theater experience consisted of running a spotlight and dating the lead actress in Fiddler on the Roof. In other words, I was out of my league, and not prepared at all for the intensity of rehearsals!
Let me tell you, these actors, actresses, tech crew and designers work HARD! They were learning choreography, memorizing lines, learning about the multitude costume changes that they had to do rapidly all while rehearsing and practicing in masks. Tech rehearsals were painstakingly detailed. Props had to be in certain places and everything was marked on stage with tape. The tech crew dressed in black were like ninjas moving everywhere, all unseen, if they did it right!
Rehearsals were at least Monday through Thursday, and there were dress rehearsals. And constant notes from the director and designers. You have to have a thick skin to be a good Mad Jester because they demand perfection. You have years and years of expectations of former Mad Jesters to uphold!
Now I have been around a lot of coaches in my 16 years of broadcasting High School Basketball. I have seen all manner of coaching. Jasmine Ireland the Director of High School Musical, and the Drama Teacher and Director of the Show Choir and One Act Play at Ellsworth is a great coach! She got the most of everyone... actors, actresses, pit, crew and designers. And she has a loud voice!
To my fellow performers and crew, pit, and everyone involved in High School Musical I can't tell you how thankful I am for welcoming me. I was incredibly nervous, with many sleepless nights. When I told my wife that i was nervous before the 1st of 6 performances she asked me why. I explained that I didn't want to mess up, because everyone had worked so hard, and for so long! After the 1st weekend's of performances I missed everyone while they were in school and I was working, and couldn't wait to see everyone for the Thursday, for the 2nd week of performances. I was singing the songs in my head, because they sound so much better there than if I really sang the songs!
Now, if you haven't been to a local High School Theater performance, you don't know what you are missing. There are incredibly talented students, that put on professional shows and work as hard as athletic teams! They deserve your support! The same goes for show choirs, bands and other visual and performing art activities. Even if you don't have a relative performing, go to the concert, the play or performance. They deserve your support, and you're going to have a great time.
To those that go to these performances please keep going. The arts deserve your attention and support just as the athletic teams do. I know that i'll be going to performances going forward, and realize I have missed out on a lot, in the years i haven't!
When I turned in my script last night, I was sad. I can't wait to support the Mad Jesters and other Visual and Performing organizations going forward, and I hope to see you at future performances!