MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 15, 2013

Students compete for theater repairs

MHS finalist for $5,000 on NBC show ‘Smash’

— Curtains crumbling to dust, water stains on the floor — not a creepy, abandoned house, but the Muskogee High School theater.

When putting on vibrant musicals, like the recent production of “Guys and Dolls,” the students have to find creative ways to camouflage the deteriorating equipment — most of it original to 1967 when the stage was built, said Penny McGill, drama teacher.

“We have drainage issues too. We’ve literally had to build platforms in the orchestra pit in case it rains,” McGill said. “Our curtains are original to the building, and we can’t even sew them together anymore. They are literally turning to dust.”

So the theater group has applied for a contest to win $5,000 to help make needed repairs — and Muskogee High School needs the public to vote.

MHS is one of 30 schools from across the nation that has been named as a finalist in NBC’s “Smash” Make a Musical Constructed by Lowe’s, according to the contest website.

The program will help five winning schools improve their theater facilities. Schools compete to receive the most online votes before April 10. MHS is the only Oklahoma school named as a finalist.

McGill said, though $5,000 is only a “drop in the bucket” of what the department needs, she’d be thrilled to have it.

“When we put on a show we have to beg, borrow and rent to put on the best show possible for these kids,” she said. “I think we do a good job of finding creative ways to camouflage the problems, but this would help us at least replace the curtains and the lighting.”

Luci Whitaker is a sophomore student who participates in the high school musicals at MHS. Whitaker said being a part of the MHS theater program is extremely important to the students.

The most recent musical, “Guys and Dolls,” featured more than 50 high school students in roles, as backstage crew and in the orchestra, she said.

“Anyone you ask will tell you this is so important to us,” she said. “It’s about the friends you make, the experience you have and the memories.”

Last season, “NBC’s ‘Smash’: Make a Musical” created musical theater programs in schools by giving educators and students the tools and training they needed to build self-sustaining programs in under-served schools, according to a media release.

The partnership was the catalyst for iTheatrics to produce 170 “Make a Musical” programs in schools across the United States, with “NBC’s Smash’: Make a Musical” being directly responsible for creating 30 additional musical theater programs.

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton@muskogeephoenix.com.

You can help

WHAT: Vote to help Muskogee High Schools theater department win $5,000 for much-needed theater repairs.

WHEN: Now until April 10.

WHERE: Go to makeamusical.org to vote for Muskogee High School.

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