Franklin High School students in Buddy Huckabee’s Drama I class performed live theatre for their first time last Thursday and Sunday. The students performed the play “The Idiot’s Guide to High School” and in the process gained an appreciation for the performing arts in education.
The production was staged at the FHS Fine Arts Center before an audience of more than 100. Only three of Huckabee’s 31 drama students had ever acted on a stage before, and even though the experience was a first for most of the students, they managed to give viewers a taste of what high school is like for youth nowadays.
“It shows some of what kids are actually thinking in high school,” said Huckabee. “They’re not really studying the literature that’s there. Their minds are always in other places.”
The presentation was driven by two main characters; Earl and Shirley, played by Jimmy Yokel and Danielle Jimison, respectively. Earl is an idiot, even by his own mother’s admission. Undaunted, Earl decides that he will use his title to present an informative guide to high school, with the aid of his equally “stupid” friend, Shirley. The two lead the audience through five chapters on how to coast through high school as a proud “idiot.” Throughout each chapter, Earl insists that his approach to high school is fool-proof — choosing the easiest teacher or concocting the perfect excuse for avoiding homework — and should be followed by the rest of his classmates.
“It’s to show people that some people are said to be idiots or called stupid—but everybody is an idiot, everybody is always learning and making mistakes. I think that’s the whole moral of the story,” continued Huckabee.
In large part, the play shows the things to avoid doing while in school through satire, as well as the things they shouldn’t take for granted — such as friends or trust. “The things you say can come back full-circle, as we see with Earl,” said Huckabee.
But just getting the play’s message across to the audience was no easy task, explained Huckabee, the class actually had to pay for the play before they performed it—ticket sales covered its expense. “You have to pay for copyright permissions and you have to pay for the rental fees.” Each play cost the class approximately $800, according to Huckabee.
“We’re always working in the red, towards the green. We have to make the money back to pay for it. We’re working to actually perform the play,” Huckabee laughed. “All the proceeds go to pay for what we’ve done and what we hope to pay for future performances.” He added that the class had been preparing for the play for more than a month and a half.
For many, the play was worth the cost of both watching it and performing in it. For 17-year-old drama student Sarah Shuler, the presentation, though it was her first, was a great experience. “It’s worth it. We need a drama department,” said Shuler, who doubled as a teacher and a fellow classmate to the lead characters in the play.
Yokel, who played the male lead “Earl” in the performance, described the audience as receptive. “They responded well,” he said, remarking that participating in the production was a “good time.”
Student actor Cheyanne Fleszar said after the performance that the drama department was a great thing for high school students to have. “I had a lot of fun,” she said. “Heck yes, it’s worth having the department.”
“It let her shine,” said Diana Reese, Fleszar’s mother. “It brings out the imagination and the creativity of our teens, so they can concentrate on music and other things, so that they don’t go out partying and drinking and doing drugs. It’s a great thing.”
“I couldn’t be more satisfied with the show last night,” said Huckabee on Friday. “That’s probably one of the best openings from a group of students that have never been on stage. They really worked together.” Both plays made nearly $900.
Huckabee asked the public to continue to support the arts, thanking it for attending the plays. “Without your music, your drama, art, all the classes that get your students away from the regular textbook, you’re going to take away their imagination, their ability to think for themselves.”
The next FHS play to be performed is scheduled for June and will cost the class $1,500. The entire drama department will participate.