The Indian Hill Middle School Theater Department ended its 2016-17 show season with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Jr.
Eighty-seven middle school students participated in the production, which performed to sold-out audiences March 17 and 18 in the Indian Hill High School Auditorium.
IHMS Drama Director Kendra Thomas credits the Indian Hill School District for its ongoing support of her program and other arts programs in the district. “I am so lucky to work at a school that not only appreciates the arts, but honors the arts.”
IHMS Music Director Heather Koester is in her 15th year of teaching. She agrees that the Indian Hill School District is unique in its support of the arts, and says that the students themselves are what make the middle school community exceptional. “These children are so special to me. They work so hard, put forth the time and effort to go above and beyond, and they are the fire to keeping my passion for teaching alive.”
This show marks the end of three years of program involvement for many eighth grade students, who will be graduating to high school in the fall. Corinne O’Dell, who played Mrs. Potts, is an eighth grader who has participated in all six shows over the past three years. She says Mrs. Koester has helped her develop self-confidence. “For instance, if I made a mistake Mrs. Koester would say, ‘It’s okay. Don’t overthink it. You’ve got it.’ She would really give me the confidence to just go up there and trust myself.”
Eighth grader Jessie Cleverly, who played a narrator in the production, says the lessons she has learned from Mrs. Thomas and Mrs. Koester go beyond the stage. “One thing they have taught me, and I’m sure everyone, is that your true self is your best self. That’s a lesson I will take through high school and beyond.”
For many students, participation in the theater program provides a social outlet that allows them to decompress from life’s demands. “This musical took away the pressures of school for an hour and allowed me to be myself,” says Erica Budde, who played a Silly Girl. “Middle school is the time where I get to find myself and get to find friends who enjoy the same things I do before moving onto high school.”
Reilly Grace, who played Belle, echoes that sentiment. “Whenever I come to rehearsal, I feel like I can just let go of all of the stress of the school day and have fun with my friends.”
At the heart of the theater program is a dedication to the students. Says Thomas, “When people ask how I can put up with the long hours and hard work, I tell them it’s easy. I’m doing it for the kids.”