There’s a buzz and energy in Smith County as Smith County Playhouse (SCP) propels forward to bring back children’s theatre to the county with a planned musical to hit the stage of Smith County High School mid-March, 2022.
And, it appears the thirst for children’s theatre is alive and well as this children’s theatre organization fulfills its desire to teach students every aspect of theatre to help them be as well rounded as possible. The much- anticipated musical is “Annie” and is under the direction of JR Smith.
Smith said SCP is building on the success of those whom came before them and were passionate about theatre for all ages. This new organization is carrying on the tradition of Smith County High School’s after-school theatre program.
“Smith County High School has consistently had an active theatre program,” he said. “Our program could not thrive at the level it currently is without our past directors, including Marie Wiser, Connie Dyer, Bill Reece, and Dillon Reed.
It was Bill who really got the musical program going, and we owe a lot of what we’ll be doing to him. Many of our current volunteers either acted under or worked with Bill.”
And, it’s come full circle with this debut musical chosen by SCP. Smith took theatre from Reece at school and in the fourth grade played a role in “Annie”, directed by Reece in 2008. He was an apple seller in the homespun play. And,
something very special must have cemented at this young age because his wife played the role of Annie in this same play.
“Yes, I met my wife Allison while we were in the play together,” he said.
She was in fifth grade. Now, at age 23, Smith will direct “Annie” for SCP on the very stage he performed. It’s come full circle.
Smith now teaches Journalism and English at Smith County High School. He got the job after graduating Middle Tennessee State University. The school’s long-time theatre teacher is soon to retire and handed over her reins to Smith to take over the position.
Smith is the founder of SCP because he saw a real need to augment classes such as his theatre class, with true performance experience. “Putting together a large show such as Annie is so much better than solely book learning,” he said. “They really go hand in hand.”
He said Reece’s main focus was on acting and singing. “This is our goal, too,” Smith said. “However, we plan to build on this with having a main goal of our shows mostly being student-led with adult volunteers to oversee the students
in the various aspects of theatre.”
Smith chose “Annie” for their first musical based on the fun history of meeting his wife in the play. “But, also as we come out of the pandemic, this show is filled with hope and uplifting,” he explained. “We cannot go wrong with it.”
This first of SCP’s is supported by the Smith County School Board, as well as local businesses (Smith sold advertising), grants, and individuals. Already fundraising has garnered $23,000 so far. It allowed them to purchase two projectors and the system that works them, among other things to progress the play.
Auditions for this musical took place Nov. 15-17 in the Smith County High School. “We’re looking to have students represented from each school and homeschool community in the county,” said Smith.
The musical welcomed any student 2nd-12th grade in Smith County to fill both actors’ and backstage roles. As of mid-November, they already had students helping in set construction and soon will have students helping with costuming, painting, hair and makeup, sound and light design, and of course, on-stage acting.
Smith explained many of the students in Smith County have never crossed the county line. “In fact, of students I’ve talked to, many couldn’t describe what a musical was,” Smith said. “This is the only outlet a lot of our students have to explore their interest in theatre, whether it be acting, singing, dancing, or anything off-stage.
Aside from church plays, it is the only opportunity for children’s theatre in Smith County. When I’ve visited schools in preparation for the show, I’ve had so many students who have expressed interest in what we’re doing.”
So many kids want to be in front of and behind the stage, but didn’t know how to further that interest.
“By supporting our students, you will help grow their confidence and encourage their dreams,” said Smith. “You’ll also help develop their skill set-we can’t give students the latest technology without the funding to do so. Our
construction students are developing interpersonal communication skills. They are developing leadership skills. We are providing students with skills any future employer would be pleased with. Our students are passionate, and
every one of them-be it our performance students or those who prefer backstage-are ready to give it all they’ve got come March 2022.”
“Annie,” the musical, will be March 11-20, 2022 in the Smith County High School auditorium. It will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s in this time period. Friday and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. for a total of
six shows. Go to Smith County Playhouse on Facebook for the latest ticketing information.