Directing the future

Former SMS theater students assist in directing annual spring play

Young voices fill the middle school auditorium. Young actors talk among themselves and wait for the rehearsal to start. In one corner of the stage, a girl dressed like a mannequin struggles to put her mic on. A couple seconds later, someone appears from the side of the stage and goes over to help. But this person isn’t a middle schooler. She is SHS junior Rebecca Wright, who, along with sophomore Hannah Cooper, has been returning to Southport Middle School to assist Amy Vaught and her group of actors in their annual spring play.

According to Vaught, a science teacher at SMS and the director of the play, the Junior Director Program has been going on for the last seven years. The big idea of this program is to teach the high schoolers how to produce a show. This is the case for Wright and Cooper, as both of them are there each day to help with rehearsals, makeup, costuming, props and stage crew. On top of that, they have been there every Saturday to help with set building.

The two split up the multitude of jobs and responsibilities that they have in the SMS production of this year’s play, “After Hours.” The play is about mannequins in a clothing store that come alive after the store closes.

“I’ve been assisting Vaught in any way I can,” Wright said. “I helped the kids learn their lines, build the sets and gather props for the actors to use.”

While Wright was mostly helping with the acting aspect of the play, Cooper helped more behind the scenes, including costumes and makeup for the actors.

“I decided what the characters are going to wear, what their hair was going to look like and how to do their makeup.” Cooper said. “I loved doing it. I was in all of the shows in middle school and I loved it so much that I wanted to come back and help”

Kaitlin Osborne, an SMS eighth grader who plays one of the leads in the play, says that the high schoolers are life savers, and without them the play wouldn’t have gone as smoothly as it did.  

According to Osborne, Wright and Cooper also fill in for the actors who are sick, “mentor” them on lines and give directions for what the actors are suppose to do on stage.

Even though Wright and Cooper are only a little older than Osborne, she still respects them as if they were authority figures like teachers.

“It’s weird,” Osborne said. “I’ve known them before they were high schoolers, so they’re my friends, but at the same time I have to listen and do what they tell me to do.”

Wright and Cooper aren’t the only students from SHS that go over to the middle school in order to help with the productions. Sophomores Nathan Taylor, Abby Sam and Casey Rockel assist as well when they can, but Wright and Cooper carry the most responsibility.

According to Wright and Cooper, they have learned a lot of skills and lessons from this experience in helping direct and produce the play. Wright in particular has learned how to act as an authority figure in teaching the students.

“I’ve learned that it’s OK to be demanding and that it’s OK to expect a great deal of effort from other people,” Wright said.

Cooper says she has been learning how to be a leader to younger children, and that it’s very hard to control middle schoolers and get them to do what she says. She also says that she has learned discipline since she has to show up at every rehearsal and be there when Vaught needs her.

The play occurred this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and since this was Wright’s third year helping out the middle schoolers, she will have the possibility of directing next year’s play. According to her, this opportunity will decide if she wants to make directing her career.

“I’m excited to try my hands at directing,” Wright said. “I think that will really be the ultimate test of whether or not I can take it.”

According to Vaught, she participates in this program for another reason. She does it for the relationship that she creates with the students.

“As a director, I wear many hats, so the help of my junior directors is priceless to me,” Vaught said. “The thing I value the most from this program is not the help, but the relationships that I build with each one of them. To me, that’s what it is all about.”