The Shows Will Go On at NMHS — Auditions Soon
San Jose-based theater director creates school performance program at Newark Memorial High School.
By Lauren Lola
Newark Memorial High School’s drama department was in danger of never coming back following the resignation of a father and son —Steve and Brandon Harrington — who had been deeply rooted in performing arts at Newark Memorial.
But one man has recently stepped up to the plate to revive the department.
Jim Burris, the director of the recent the recent Stage 1 productions of Fame and Doo-Wop Wed Widing Hood is starting an after-school performance club at the high school.
And while the program — which will have no affiliation with Stage 1 — is targeted for high schoolers, Newark Junior High School students are allowed to audition and partake in the shows (but cannot actually be in the club).
Burris was more than willing to start a performing arts club, noting his admiration for the shows produced at the high school. After the Harringtons left, he didn’t want the legacy they left behind to go away.
With no plans to hire a new drama teacher, he and Blair Barret — who will serve as the orchestra conductor and producer for the shows —decided to create the club and got support from Newark Unified School District and high school administrators.
This isn’t the first time where Burris has developed such a program. He has done something similar in the past for high schools in South Carolina and Arkansas.
This past spring, he served as the vocal director of Saratoga High School’s production of Jekyll and Hyde. They, too, were in a similar situation with their drama department but their show turned out to be a success.
The funding for the program will be similar to that of a sports program, based on fees, sponsorships, advertisements for the programs, supporters and ticket sales.
Despite the existence of the performance club, a drama club will still exist on campus under the direction of Cathy Leavitt (who will also be advising the performance club).
“I hope for [the clubs] to eventually become one club where it serves everybody because I know they’ve had a huge improv group, so I’d like to keep that going,” said Burris. “I also hope to bring people from choir and band, too ,so we can have an arts group. But that’s something that’s down the road that still needs to be looked into.”
Like each show’s casts, technician crews will also be student-based. Burris wants this club to be as student-involved as possible. Eventually he hopes to have the program, including the orchestra, be completely student-based.
Auditions for the first production, Grease, will take place at the Newark Memorial Theater on Sept. 6 and 7, with callbacks on Sept 8.
Students should prepare a song from a Broadway musical (not Grease) and provide sheet music for the accompanist. Students will be separated into groups of 10 as each will step out and sing.
There will also be a small reading (one or two sentences), and a dance audition may occur either during the first auditions or during callbacks.
“I want to make this as painless as possible,” explained Burris. All I want to see is what they can do so we can put the best people in the parts for the show. That’s all it is. I don’t want anybody to come in all jittery and nervous about it. I just want them to come in and have fun.”
The performances of Grease are scheduled for Nov. 11-13 and Nov. 18-20.
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