(Posted April 11, 2022)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Staff Writer
Shekinah Christian School is shining the spotlight on students’ talents with an art show and musical April 22-23.
This won’t be the first time the school has combined art and music this school year.
“We have really talented artists at this school. We need to find a way for people to see their art,” said Christian Bechtol, music teacher for grades K-12. “So, we had the idea to put up art at our Christmas concert. It made everything different. Instead of boring walls of brick, art is the first thing people see when they walk in. It really sets the tone, and it brings more people into the school those nights.”
For the upcoming art show and musical, doors open at 6 p.m. each night. The musical, “Annie Jr.,” starts at 7 p.m. The stage production lasts about an hour. Visitors are invited to view the artwork displayed in the hallways before and after the musical.
Delores Groh, art teacher for grades 1-12, loves the additional opportunities to show off students’ artwork. Shekinah holds a gala every other year that features small musical numbers, a large art show, and student demonstrations. This is the off year.
“Christian is new to Shekinah this year, and he really wanted to make this a collaborative arts effort,” she said.
The art show will feature Greek faces on urns by fifth-graders and colored pencil and pen-and-ink drawings of still lifes by high-schoolers.
Students in fifth grade through junior high drew inspiration from their studies of abstract artist Alma Woodsey Thomas. They created their own abstract pieces.
“They just turned out so cool,” Groh said. “I have them all displayed together as a unit. It’s just a bright, colorful, fun abstract display.”
Students in first grade through junior high dreamed up their own versions of Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting, “The Starry Night.” Groh said it’s interesting to see how the students across different age and skill levels interpreted the painting.
“I like having all the grade levels and watching the students grow in their artistic abilities. They are so motivated and have such a great work ethic,” said Groh, now in her sixth year as art teacher at Shekinah.
Due to COVID-19, a couple of years have passed since Shekinah last performed a musical. The school was prepared to present “Fiddler on the Roof’” in 2020, but the pandemic closed down everything a week or two before the show.
Bechtol said he wasn’t sure how the hiatus would impact interest this year, but he was pleasantly surprised when 33 students auditioned for this year’s show, “Annie Jr.”
The one-act production is a kid-friendly, shorter version of the well-known musical, “Annie,” about the adventures of a plucky orphan in New York City.
Sixth-grader Grace Giddens plays the title character.
“When Grace came into the audition, she had pretty much the entire (script) memorized,” Bechtol said. “When she gets up on stage, she knows how to click into the Annie character. She’s always on, always ready to go.”
Sophomore Allison Beachy plays Molly, Annie’s best friend at the orphanage. Traditionally, the actress who plays Molly is a small, younger girl, but in Shekinah’s version, Molly is taller than Annie. Beachy had to adjust her lines because many of them refer to her height.
Several other members of the cast also have put their own stamp on the show. Senior Lillia Kilzer plays Miss Hannigan, the cruel orphanage director. Junior Grace Newman plays Lily, the whiny girlfriend of Rooster, Miss Hannigan’s brother, played by senior Marcus Peachey.
“The three of them came up with a tap dance routine for one of the songs,” Bechtol said. “They aren’t even supposed to be in that song, but they found a way to make it happen. It has turned out to be this really cool thing, and it is all due to them.”
Rounding out the lead roles are senior Shay Greenwell who plays billionaire Oliver Warbucks and senior Alayna Schrader who plays Grace Farrell, Warbucks’s personal secretary. Greenwell does a great job pulling off the stiff, formal Warbucks character.
“He knocked us out of the water at auditions,” Bechtol said.
As for Schrader, Bechtol said her personality matches that of her character–down-to-earth, well-spoken and gentle.
“Alayna is always a vibe of good energy, and that’s what she brings to the stage,” he said.
He has high praise for the students who play the orphans, too, stating that they move together well in their own pod.
“I’m going to go ahead and say it: I have the best orphans ever!” Bechtol said. “They are probably the most excited of everyone in the group. They’ll be walking down the hall between classes, singing songs from the show or talking about what to do with their costumes. They’re always in the moment.”
Bechtol said everyone in the show, no matter how big or small their part, is invested in the production. Even students who don’t have on-stage parts have contributed. Shekinah holds an Enrichment Week during which students are introduced to new hobbies and activities. Bechtol led a tract on set design. Students both in the show and not worked together to paint the rotating panels that provide backdrops on stage.
When it comes to props, costumes and some of the sound equipment, Bechtol is thankful for the loans he has received from Country Closet Thrift Shop, Rosedale Bible College and students’ parents.
Tickets for “Annie Jr.” can be purchased online at Tickets. Including purchasing fees, they are $12 for adults, $10 for students, and $25 for a family of up to five members. Tickets also may be purchased at the door the nights of the shows; all tickets at the door are $13.