As one enters the auditorium at Lake Norman High School, the academic hallways suddenly transform into the world of Charlie Brown and Snoopy and all the other lovable Charles Schulz characters.
On Monday, students were gathered for a dress rehearsal of their upcoming production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown!” set to begin tonight at 7 p.m. at the school at 186 Doolie Road, Mooresville.
When their theater teacher and director of the musical Lakeetha Blakeney called for Places! Lights! Music!, the students themselves transformed into highly skilled singers, actors and actresses and crew members, making sure that everything was just right to share their musical with the community.
Performances will continue March 7-8 at 7 p.m. and March 9 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets, which are $10 for general admission, $7 for students and $5 for 10 and younger, will be available at the door and online through the school’s website.
Blakeney, who has served as the theater arts teacher at the school for two years, said that she has been acting since she was 6-years-old and acting professionally since 2003. She has performed in various theater companies in St. Louis and the Children’s Theater in Charlotte.
“ Actor first and then an actor who found my way to the classroom. That’s how I teach, that’s my perspective,” Blakeney noted.
She shared that she believes in teaching the students about proper house management and thus has her students involved in every aspect of the performance, including running the box office, the will call office and selling concessions, all with the guidance of a teacher.
“ I wanted the kids to do all the work, do what they are supposed to do,” Blakeney said.
The 55-plus students, which include both cast and crew, have been working on the current production since Jan. 3 with rehearsals running daily from 3:30 until 7 p.m. - and just this past few days, rehearsals on the weekend as well.
Blakeney praised the students saying, “This has been a great group. The kids have worked so hard.”
She noted how Garrett Bankston, a senior and the lead set designer, has “done some amazing work. I see him going on in this.”
Bankston said that he is searching around the Charlotte area to continue in theater work.
“ I have been in theater since I was a freshman,” he said. And he is in advanced acting now. He has seen both sides of the stage.
“ I like this side better,” he said noting the set design aspect.
Other behind-the-scenes work was accomplished thanks to the hard work of the Heath Brittain and his second block Career/Tech Education class which did the large set construction and all the painting of the props, senior Aspen Currie for the lighting design, Jade Duerr for all the sound work, parent volunteer Angelia Dixon for her work with props and costumes, Gina Duckworth who served as the choreographer, Virginia Wagner for her musical direction and South Lake Christian for their help with costumes.
At least 17 of the seniors in the cast and crew plan to continue in theater work of some sort in college and beyond.
What does this last musical of their high school years mean to them?
“ It means it is the last chance to make my mark on the school and leave a legacy behind for others to follow,” said Ivan Dixon, who played Charlie Brown in the production.
“ What it means to me is that it’s my life,” said McKenzie McGee. “If I am hard on you,” she said to the rest of the students, “it’s because I love you and this means my life.”
“ This is the last big thing I get to do with my friends,” Zoe Sauder, aka Snoopy in the musical, said with a big smile. “It’s not sad. We will have this to connect to.”
As families wait for the play to begin, there will be fun activities in the school’s Commons area, including cutouts of the Charlie Brown characters where people can put their heads in the cutout and ‘become’ one of the characters and have their picture taken.
These cutouts are thanks to Leighanna Weems and her crew. Weems, head of the Commons set, shared that she had worked on another production but this was her “first set design project, my first time to be in charge and I was able to express myself creatively.”
Right before the students take their places and the curtain rises, they will hear Blakeney say, “have fun, keep your eyes and ears open and be present in the moment.”
And then it’s time for lights, music and the fun begins.
“ This is a lot of fun, said Bryan Moray, a member of the crew. “I think (Charlie Brown) is a part of everyone’s childhood.”
Want to go
Performances are March 6-8 at 7 p.m. and March 9 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets, which are $10 for general admission, $7 for students and $5 for 10 and younger, will be available at the door and online through the school’s website.