Weakley Playhouse

Weakley County Schools Prove the Show Must Go On
Posted on 06/14/2021
This is the image for the news article titled Weakley County Schools Prove the Show Must Go OnMartin Kane isn’t afraid of trying something new. Sometimes, however, the new must wait a while.

For instance, the Westview theater and French teacher began Weakley Playhouse, a countywide drama program for Weakley County Schools in 2019. After a successful premiere with a focus on the fantastical – “Feathers and Teeth” followed by Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” -- plans were underway for a second season of high school productions and the introduction of a middle school option.

And then … COVID.

Kane had intended to spend the spring shaping Martin Middle School’s drama club into a production-ready theater group. But with school closing early and then resuming in the fall with safety protocols that severely limited the usual intimacy needed for theater, plans were put on hold for the middle schoolers.

Kane was able to capture “The Crucible” on camera and offer online tickets to see actors from across the county take on the theater classic. As the year progressed, the planned musical had to be scrapped but the comedy “Play On” proved to be a perfect blend of angst and laughter for the high school cast.

And with the start of a new year, the spotlight was once again on Martin Middle School.

After reviewing several scripts selected specifically for their large casts to give more young thespians the chance to perform, Kane gave his high school theater class the final say. A May production of “The Pirate Show” was planned.

Dividing the theater class into “departments,” Anna Bell, Chase Campbell, Jada Davis, Samantha Hurt, Chloe Jones, Garrett Morgan, and Terry Steffen-Brewer assumed roles in either directing and stage managing, set design and construction, costuming or audiovisuals. Gloria Hogan, who, along with Jones and Morgan, has been part of every play the fledgling Weakley Playhouse has presented thus far, took on the stage manager responsibility.

The tale of the high seas relays the experiences of orphans Virginia and Nigel Huddersfield who have grown tired of life at Persimmon Curmudgeon’s “Charm School.” They decide to take their chances on their own but get split up. Against their will, they find themselves aboard rival pirate ships, the Pretty Penelope, and the Bandito Loco. The two crews are racing to find the priceless Caribbean Ruby, but what they find is not what they expected.

To convey life at the orphanage, on the ships and landing on the island, the high schoolers took on the heavier tasks like cutting the ships out, and the middle schoolers did the painting. Tree trunks were the older students’ work with the middle schoolers completing the papier-mâché leaves and branches.

“It was a good first effort,” said Kane of the two nights of performances in mid-May.

“I have high standards,” he acknowledged. “But there were elements of it that I think turned out very well. I’m glad the middle schoolers got a hand in building the set pieces. Many of the middle schoolers did a great job at performing. There are things I want to improve for next year.”

Among those improvements is the desire to open the middle school opportunities to other communities. He began by including 7th graders as part of the open casting call for the summer production of “Anne of Green Gables.”

That family friendly favorite is set for July 22-24 and once again, Kane is trying something new.

Taking to the outdoors and a Theater on the Green experience, the director and cast will tell the story of the high-spirited, red-head orphan named Anne Shirley and her adventures and misadventures on the farm. Kane is negotiating the locales and admits that “the Prince Edward Island as interpreted through Tennessee in July” will be challenging. But he is looking forward to the task.

He has secured Snide Park in Gleason for a 7:00 p.m. performance on July 24. Kane expressed thanks to Mayor Charles Anderson and the City of Gleason for working through the logistics to host this event.

Rehearsals are currently Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons. Costumes – in as light a fabric as possible – are being procured or made. Kane has plans to borrow platforms, microphones, and trailers for setting up the outdoor venues.

Admission is free and families are encouraged to bring chairs, blankets, etc. Donations will be accepted during intermission.

Anyone wishing to help with bringing “Anne of Green Gables” to life should contact Kane at weakleyplays@gmailcom.

When students return for the 2021-22 academic year, the Weakley Playhouse marquee will include “Peter/Wendy,” a slightly abstract adaptation of Peter Pan and “Romeo and Juliet.”

Ever the dreamer, Kane adds, “If I can find the resources, I want to go completely over the top with ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and make it huge.”

Since the Weakley Playhouse returned to the boards before even Broadway welcomed theatergoers back to the Big Apple, Kane’s dream just might include a happy ending.

members of the cast of Martin Middle School play
Martin Middle Schoolers presented their first theatrical production under the tutelage of Westview’s theater class and Weakley Playhouse Director Martin Kane. The crew included Harper Bartholomew, Kadence Brewer, Will Simmons, and Shelby Wilson. The cast of “The Pirate Show” was Alina Vo, Cole Dickson, Scarlett Newsome, Vincent Butero, Elaina Wilson, Lena Zimmerman, Parker Anderson, Lucy Oelrich, Samuel Butero, Natalie Merritt, Olivia Haskins, Emily Scott, Leah Craddock, Tyler McCollum, Avery Rogers, Carson Garvin, Thomas Brown, Allie Rogers, Trinity Boyd, Kadence Brewer, Elaina Wilson, and Lena Zimmerman. Seen here are Samuel Butero, Scarlett Newsome, Lucy Oelrich, Vincent Butero and Avery Rogers.

poster for Anne of Green Gables