Friday night (foot)lights
Texas has long been known for the "Friday night lights" of high school football stadiums across the state. As the evenings get cooler, parents and fans gather to watch young men kick the pigskin through the goal posts. But stadium lights aren't the only ones burning bright- in hundreds of high school auditoriums the footlights- and spotlights- cast a bright light on young performers trodding the boards and doing high kicks and pratfalls as the season for high school musical productions and fall plays gets into full swing.
Over the last few decades the popularity of high school musicals (as well as the sophistication) has grown, spurred by local, regional, state-wide or national high school musical theatre award (HSMTA) competitions sponsored by various nonprofit theatre organizations and, on a national level, The Broadway League. Nonprofits have realized this is where you build your audience of the future and connect with your community. Make no mistake, it's serious business, with some of the productions spending into the tens of thousands of dollars and students competing for trophies, yes, but also scholarships to college theater programs. And the colleges are taking note as well- the next step for many of these student performers is auditioning for college theater BA and BFA programs with a view of pursuing a professional career.
Indeed, currently, there are three area high school grads who followed their performing ambitions through college and are now working professionally. Plano West HS & Texas State U. grad Chris Clark is playing the lead in the national tour of Escape to Margaritaville, and this week saw Waxahachie HS and Oklahoma City U. grad Blake Sauceda's opening night on the national tour of the musical An Officer and a Gentleman, and Guyer HS and Texas State grad John Fredrickson open the off-Broadway production of Mike and Mindy's Wild Weekend Jam.
From left to right, Blake Sauceda, Chris Clark (with guitar), John Fredrickson (at left)
Clear evidence that you'd better catch these performances while the kids are in high school- you can say you, "...saw 'em when..." because you'll be paying big bucks to see them in professional productions soon enough! And that is actually our point: many of the performances you see on area high school stages are already approaching professional quality with strong singing and acting, not to mention dancing, going on. With sets and costumes built by the students themselves, you may often wonder, is this an amateur or pro show I'm watching? You really can't beat the entertainment value, and considering some of what passes for television fare these days, you're much better off catching a high school show- and parents- it IS something you can take the whole family to. "Where can I see who's playing," you ask? Check out Texas High School Theater group page on Facebook: we share photos, posts and info on performance dates/schools/locations. Check it out! And we'll see you at the Friday night footlights!