SPARTA — The casting process for Highland’s spring musical “Hello, Dolly” has created some controversy within the district, and the issue was raised Monday at the school board meeting.
A parent, Bob Bennington, wanted to make the board aware of his concern that the school is funding the musical, and there has been miscommunication regarding the play. Some people understood that it would be an open community production and some high school students believed it would be a high school production.
“Several adults have taken key roles that these kids tried out for,” said Bennington. “It’s my opinion that if the school paid for a high school production, we should let the kids participate in this.”
One of the students at the meeting said other students have questioned the use of adults in the musical and feel that it is unfair. She said the communication “needs to be fixed. My personal opinion is that we should take those people from the school, audition them, cast the show and then take adults and fill in the roles that haven’t been filled in yet.”
Board president Dave Gleason said the board would take the matter under advisement, and Superintendent Bill Dodds said he has been in discussion with the parents and the play director. He expects a solution will be reached in the near future.
Dodds said the administration is working through the process with the play coordinator Joe Bell to review everything. “The parent, the teacher and I are all on the same page,” said Dodds. “When we all have the same thing in mind — to take care of the kids— it makes it pretty easy. “
Early on Monday, Dodds explained to the News the rationale behind including the community in the production.
“Our play director, last spring at our spring show announced we would be doing a community performance this year of ‘Hello, Dolly’ to thank the community; allow them to participate as a thank you for the beautiful stage we have, the beautiful school we have. And also alumni who have, for years, done really good performances on a less-than-adequate stage.
“We have not left any Highland student out. No Highland students have been left out of the play. In fact, there are elementary, middle and high school students (on the cast list); there are community people in the play. There are alumni in the play — all from the top parts to the extras. Groups are represented in every area. I believe that was the goal, to include and represent as many community members as possible. In the future, when we do plays, we’ll have some individual student plays. We also want to continue the community type plays. There a lot of opportunities for students to be mentored by the adults in the community who have these talents. It’s just a good connection with the students, parents, community members, alumni, and that’s what we want to do to foster the arts.”
Community member Christy Bennington believes the lead roles need to be recast. “Our understanding was that the community would have a secondary role,” she said. “The primary focus should be for the kids because they have no other avenue. If you are a senior this year, then you were competing against adults for your one and only production. ... It’s the kids’ one chance. They shouldn’t have to be competing against adults for the role.”