WAMS show directors celebrate 19 years

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WAYNESBORO–Waynesboro Area Middle School thespians took to the stage Friday, February 25, and Saturday, February 26, to perform Jolly Roger and the Pirate Queen. Nearly 30 students participated in the production, including 26 actors and three members of the stage crew.

Directed by Ken Carlson, a social studies teacher at WAMS, and Mary Fleagle, a secretary at the middle school, Jolly Roger and the Pirate Queen was chosen not only because of its “great cast size”, but also because it allowed for flexibility in the casting of roles and was “perfect for middle schoolers,” Fleagle said. 

“Our goal is to always choose a play that leaves people feeling good and gives as many students as possible a chance to be on stage,” Carlson explained. “When necessary, we write lines in ourselves so that all have an opportunity. I believe our strength over the years has been in casting and matching parts with personalities.”

The play centers around Roger Goodman (played by Zach Kaiser, a seventh grader), a wealthy man who attempts to impress the young Sarah Huffington (Zoe Bowersox, a seventh grader) by becoming a pirate known as Captain Blood. A comedic play filled with pirates, treasure chests, and a repeating parrot, this show offered the actors and audience an hour of fun away from the hecticness of their everyday lives, which is why both directors thought it was perfect for this year.

“It has great humor, action, and is a good time,” said Carlson. “This year’s cast was incredible. It was one of the few years that when ‘Book Drop Day’ came, we had to feed almost no lines.”

Carlson and Fleagle have been directing the Spring WAMS play together for 19 years. Even the Pandemic couldn’t close the curtains on the yearly production. “Last year we did it online,” noted Carlson.

While many people would shy away from directing a large group of pre-teens in their spare time, both directors embrace the idea, noting that the annual play gives them an opportunity to get to know better not only the students they see on a daily basis, but also others who they meet for the first time in auditions.

“What I like most about directing the play is getting to know the students and seeing them shine,” Carlson said. “It is great to see them grow in their confidence and ability.”

Fleagle agreed, confessing that she enjoys getting “out of the office, being around the students, and hearing their stories.”

Over the nearly two decades of directing the show, the duo have had more than 500 students involved in everything from acting to stage managing.

Fleagle and Carlson said watching students develop their sense of self throughout the years has been the best part of directing.

“We remind the cast each year that the days are long, but the years are short – we want them to enjoy their time on stage,” Fleagle said, noting that they have had several former students become teachers, doctors, and other professionals who have come back to watch younger family members on the WAMS stage.

“It is great seeing what they have gone on to do at the high school and beyond,” Carlson said.

Cast members take the stage during the show. EMILY DICKEY/FOR LOCAL.NEWS
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