Lee Street Theatre educates Carson, Salisbury students through entertainment
By Sarah Campbell
CHINA GROVE - Local students got an unusual treat Friday when Lee Street Theatre took their production of "The Complete History of America (Abridged)" on the road.
American history and theater students at Carson and Salisbury high schools saw the 90-minute show without even leaving school.
"Part of the essential standards that we teach is critiquing live theater, and the opportunity to take a large group of high school students to do so is hard and expensive," said Carson theater teacher Alex Reynolds.
Reynolds said when he heard director and friend Justin Dionne talking about the three-man show he knew it might be possible to bring it to Carson.
"I knew it was small enough that it could be picked up and hauled around," he said. "We kind of threw it around and it became a thing.
"Our kids don't get a chance to see a show of that quality very often."
Dionne said Shari and Bill Graham offered to sponsor the show at Salisbury High after hearing about the Carson performance.
"It's really exciting," Dionne said. "The show is a light-hearted look at American history. It pokes fun at everybody while being very informative.
"It does a really good job of educating through entertainment because it spans the entire U.S. history."
The students couldn't stop laughing during the performances Friday.
"It was absolutely hilarious," Carson senior Vinny Gianfrancesco said. "I've already had American history so I understood everything, but if you haven't it would still be funny."
Gianfrancesco said it was genius that the writers added some modern reference such as the popular dance song "Gangnam Style."
"I think when they mentioned Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift referring to the Civil War it allowed you to relate to it more because of that modern twist," said Carson junior Sarah Dover.
Dover is taking Advanced Placement U.S. history this semester.
"We're learning about all the things they were talking about now. It was fun seeing them joke about it," she said. "It was really fun, I had a good time watching it."
Carson junior Kylie Kluttz said she thought the show was a "good balance of history versus culture."
"It was really well-written and it flowed well. There really wasn't any dead space" she said. "I really enjoyed the historical aspect because I'm a history nerd."
Ashley Philyaw, a Carson senior, said she was impressed with how well stars Brian Romans, Jacob Asher and Jason Rolan delivered their lines in such a fast-paced production that includes 600 years of history.
"They had really good dictations," she said. "They made it funny in a way that we'll learn and remember it for a long time."
Carson junior Savannah Deal said she was impressed by the amount of lines the three actors had to learn for the play.
"The number of references they squished into a two-act show is phenomenal and it was completely hilarious," she said.
Ryan Chandler, an American history teacher at Carson, said the show's first act was mainly a review for his students, who are taking the first part of the course this semester.
"It was a really good way to show them that this stuff is important and it can be funny," he said. "I really hope they enjoyed it."
Chandler said the second act will help prepare students for what they'll be learning next semester.
"They've got a nice, small foundation for the second part of the class," he said.
Reynolds said the main thing he hopes his students take away from the performance is the fact that theater doesn't have to end after high school.
"These guys all have full-time jobs. They just act on the side," he said. "Even if my students don't want to go into theater, they still have an opportunity to be involved."
Dionne, who serves as Lee Street Theatre's managing artistic director, said he'd like to make traveling to local high schools to perform an annual event. He said he understands it can be difficult for schools to travel to see them because of the logistics and cost of travel.
"We don't want to ask too much of the schools, so we'll do whatever we can do to try to get in there ourselves," he said. "Growing up, I remember going to see plays at the Meroney (Theater), but what really made a difference was when a group would come into my school."
The show will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, 16 and 17 at Looking Glass Artist Center's Black Box theatre, 405 N. Lee St.
General admission tickets are $10. Call 704-798-7768 to reserve tickets, or buy advance tickets at the Literary BookPost. Tickets will also be sold at the door, but seating is limited.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.