New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | April 14, 2024

Trojan Theater students to perform “Chicago” this fall

By Andre Jones | October 2, 2017 10:36 pm

New Kent High School drama students (l to r) Haley Wagner, Kellie Bolden, Billy Bowery, and Marisa Turner show off costume designs for the upcoming Trojan Theater production of “Chicago” in late October.

Andre' Jones photos

What started out a dozen years ago as a joint partnership between Astor College in England and New Kent High School has now blossomed into a musical performance that has buzzed through the entire state of Virginia. And now, New Kent High School’s drama performers will bring the big city style to the small stage starting Oct. 26.

“Chicago” will be performed in partnership between the schools from Oct. 26-28 at New Kent High School. New Kent students will host a home production of the show on Nov. 10-11.

Plans for the show started at the end of the final semester of last school year, with ideas being pitched by students.

“We have a musical theater class and one of the end of the year assignments is to get proposal of projects at the end of the year,” said drama instructor Victoria Kesling. “The class does research and we take a number of suggestions and narrow it down to two.”

“Chicago” was chosen by New Kent students to perform this fall. Kesling said she had to pitch the choice to instructors of Astor College in order to make the production work. With both sides agreeing to the selection, students from each school will partner up for joint shows at the end of October, marking their seventh collaborative production in the 12-year partnership.

But the partnership isn’t just about the schools or the show itself. Many students have used the production to benefit and steer their career choice in that direction.

“I went to England for the production last year and the trip help persuade me to pursue a career in theater arts after graduation,” said Marisa Turner. I was surrounded by a group of people who loved the theater and I saw a lot of diversity that helped me make that decision.”

For Billy Bowery, he had the rare opportunity to work with the cast as an eighth grader.

“This is my second international production and I met a lot of new people that I stay in contact with,” said Bowery, pointing to his joint venture with Astor College of “Les Miserables” that was performed in 2015. “I jumped in head first and now here we have Trojan Theater.”

Trojan Theater isn’t just the name of a high school performing group. It has grown into a brand, as explained by Haley Wagner who relocated to New Kent.

“When I was living down in the Virginia Beach area, Trojan Theater was known all over Virginia,” she said. “Because of that, the amount of intensity we strive to do to put on a good performance is shown by all of us. The word gets out in the community and it encourages them to come out to support us.”

That work ethic started with summer rehearsals and set construction. A cast of 45 makes up both the on-stage and backstage production cast. For Grace Daniel, the upcoming show has a lot of production that has a high possibility of changing Trojan Theater in years to come.

“This year is special because this will be a traveling show,” Daniel commented. “We will be performing at the Virginia State Thespian Conference [at Kellam High School in Virginia Beach] in front of peers and a phenomenal audience.

“They are really supportive and understand where we are coming from and the work we put in,” Daniel continued. “We are hoping to become adjudicated so that we can travel to the International Thespian Festival in Nebraska.”

As for performing in front of classmates and the local community, “Chicago” gives students the chance to display talents otherwise thought hidden.

“This gives us the opportunity to show what we can and can’t do,” said DeShame Short. “Here there isn’t a lot of down time and you have to stay in character.”

“This production has me both singing and learning how to dance,” added junior Madison Rowe, who doubles in her duties as the public relations representative. “It brings you out the comfort zone but you will be doing it with your peers despite this being a giant project.”

“This challenges our ensemble skills,” chimed in Daniel. “We have to give 110 percent on even something simple. Every scene is precise down to details that others don’t see.”

For Kesling, she admits the logistics for “Chicago” is easier compared to Les Miserables.

“Just by sheer numbers administrative, it’s very different going from working with a cast of 90 to 45,” the teacher commented. “It’s easier to a standpoint as everybody in the show will get a chance to perform but this one is more high-paced.”

With shows upcoming, students hope the community continues to response positively with support.

“It’s always been a supportive atmosphere,” Wagner said. “I hope the word continues to get out.”

“Just being international shows us how good we can be,” Rowe concluded.

“Chicago” will be presented on Oct. 26-28 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee show at 12 p.m. on Oct. 28 in conjunction with Astor College. The Trojan Theater shows are Nov. 9-11 at 7:30 p.m. General admission tickets are $5, with premium seating available at $7 and $10, respectively.

Trojan Theater cast members inspect props and the stage set during the rehearsal process of “Chicago.”

Trojan Theater cast members inspect props and the stage set during the rehearsal process of “Chicago.”