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North High to debut 'FAME,' art program

By TANYA SOMAROO
tsomaroo@news-press.com
Published by news-press.com on April 17, 2005

IF YOU GO

What: North Fort Myers Center for the Arts and Media production of "FAME"
Where: North Fort Myers High School auditorium, 5000 Orange Grove Blvd.
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 28; Friday, April 29, and Saturday, April 30
Cost: Tickets are $5
Details: For more information call the school at 995-2117.

Sixty-eight North Fort Myers High School students are planning to dazzle the audience with their performance of the musical "FAME."

The show, which was made into a popular movie and television show in the 1980s, documented the lives of students at LaGuardia School of Performing Arts in New York.

Drama director Michele Whitener chose the musical because her school is undergoing a transformation into the North Fort Myers Center for the Arts and Media. They want to make a big impression.

"This is sort of our coming out or debutante show," she said.

The Lee County School District's new student assignment plan replicated popular programs in each zone. North High modeled its program after Cypress Lake Center for the Arts.

Through the program, students will be able to focus their studies in several areas: visual arts, media arts, instrumental music, vocal music, theatre arts, dance and orchestra.

North High is one of four high schools that serve the district's West Zone. The zone includes Cape Coral, Pine Island and a portion of North Fort Myers. More than half of the students who attend the school live in Cape Coral.

"FAME" will be the first big production in the school's new auditorium, which was destroyed when Hurricane Charley hit on Aug. 13.

The whole auditorium from the carpet to the stage lights were redone.

Whitener said this is a chance for the entire community to see what the school is doing. The arts program officially begins in August, but teachers and students have been preparing for it all year.

"We had a good foundation to start," Whitener said. "Our strengths lie in what we already have."

School officials converted a special education room into a dance studio and will begin offering dance each period next year.

Alison McMillen, 17, a junior at North High, is excited about the new dance program. She studies dance after school and wants to major in dance when she starts college.

"It's nice to take it inside school and have something you really enjoy doing here," said McMillen who will be performing in "FAME."

Principal Kimberly Lunger is searching for a dance and orchestra teacher. Robin Dawn Academy for the Performing Arts has been working on a contract basis with North High students for the past 11 years.

The school's orchestra, which is taught by Diplomat Middle School strings teacher Fred Parham, will provide all of the music during the "FAME" performance.

The rest of the arts staff is already in place.

The school hired Gwen Gregg as its choral teacher this year. Her work with students has helped them to earn an excellent rating for their recent Music Performance Assessment. The students' skills were assessed by a panel of judges.

A vocal technique class will be added next year to help students improve their singing.

"The students will progress faster because of more individualized instruction," Gregg said.

The Lee County School District did not provide any additional funds to convert the school into an arts school, but Lunger has used equipment money and community donations to make improvements.

Many of those advancements will continue in the upcoming years, Lunger said.

The Cypress Lake Center for the Arts has an entire building dedicated to performing arts.

"The students and the staff wanted to make the best of what we were given," Lunger said.

She hopes to add an outdoor amphitheater in a courtyard area near the auditorium.

It would be perfect for one-act plays or other performances, Lunger said.

The second component of the program, which involves visual and media arts, is ready to go.

But school officials also would like to make some improvements there.

"The goal right now is to get our on-air equipment totally replaced," said Eric Brounson, who teaches television production.

Some of the equipment is from 1994 when the school was renovated. The school is looking for donations to replace the equipment.

Students have already built three new sets for the daily news, sports and special features.

Brounson worked at NBC-2 for 12 years and plans to run the class just like a newsroom.

"They will be learning news-gathering techniques," Brounson said.

Students in the program may have a two-hour block of time where they can work on special packages in addition to the daily newscast. Lunger is still working on the class schedule.

Students in Web design classes will work with the television production students to create news graphics.

Web design students also will have the chance to learn three-dimensional computer animation and digital photography. Students will be learning programs such as Flash, DreamWeaver and ActionScript, teacher Rob Daly said.

Each student will have an opportunity to walk out of the courses with a portfolio of work.

 

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