Teaching Stars to Shine

Teaching Stars to Shine

by Susan Neuhalfen

Drama kids are a special breed of unique. They come from all walks of life. Some are actors and actresses, some are directors and some are artists designing props. They are like puzzle pieces, in all shapes and sizes that work together to create something beautiful.

Erin Turek, the theater director at Harpool has a passion and enthusiasm that are positively contagious. Throughout our interview, kids came in and out to ask what they could do to help, never complaining about even the most menial task. A few others came in just to share some good news and she dropped everything to listen.

“We have such an awesome combination of personalities and I love to watch the 6th graders and 8th graders interact – there’s no upper echelon,” said Turek. “Because of a show they meet and wonderful friendships are created.”

It all started with Turek suggesting that Harpool put on a musical years ago and “just see how it goes”. Now the kids are getting prepared to put on The Lion King, Jr., practicing typically four days per week. Though theatre is an elective, practice happens after school so a student doesn’t have to take theatre to be in the performance.

Harpool performed Shrek last year and Turek said going from that to Lion King Jr. is a big stretch. From a comedy to a drama, they are having to having to learn African language as well as all different types of dance from an outside choreographer. Turek credits Harpool choir teacher Alaina Ice with the incredible sound and musicianship of the students, spending hours on the songs that bring the music to life.

“She’s great,” said Turek. “The collaboration between the theatre and choir departments is the reason we are able to put on a musical successfully.”

Though she looks as young as her students, Turek has seen a number of them go on to the program at Guyer and move even farther to act in college and on professional stages. She and Guyer Theatre Director Eleshia Crotwell communicate so she stays in the loop on what the students are doing. She says the talent pool between the two schools is astounding.

“My biggest problem is that we can’t put everyone on stage,” she said. “Harpool is so chock full of talent.”

It takes a lot of people to make the production run. In addition to Turek and Ice, Tureks’s husband, an 8th grade history teacher, acts as technical manager.

They have a running crew that takes care of props, cleaning, moving stage pieces and then the cast where Turek emphasizes that no one is more important than another.

“We talk to everyone about encouraging each other,” said Turek. “It’s all about putting your best foot forward and enjoying it.”

The Lion King Jr. will have performances from November 16-18 at 7 p.m. with an additional matinee performance on November 18 at 2:30 p.m. They will also have in-school performances for all of the 5th graders from their feeder elementary schools.

The students will then have a two-week break before auditioning for their UIL One Act Play competition. It’s a lot of work but Turek and her crew love every minute of it.

“This is where they get their first taste of theater,” said Turek. “Seeing kids find their passion, that just lights my heart on fire.”

The Lion King, Jr
November 16th, 17th, and 18th at 7:00 p.m.
**Additional Matinee performance on 11/18 at 2:30 p.m.**
General Admission – $5.00
Tickets will go on sale at the beginning of November 

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