Transforming community through theatre
“That’s the magic of art and the magic of theatre: it has the power to transform an audience, an individual, or en masse, to transform them and give them an epiphanal experience that changes their life, opens their hearts and their minds and the way they think.”
-Brian Stokes Mitchell
I have been involved in theater for all of my adult life. I have witnessed its transformative powers in my life, the lives of my friends and family and the lives of entire communities. This transformation is grounded in the power of story. Robert McKee, the author of “Story” says it this way: “Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.”
Here, in Bryson City, we will have the opportunity to experience the power of story on stage through Swain High’s upcoming production of Disney’s “Freaky Friday the Musical.”
The musical will run over two weekends this month, March 22-24 and March 29-31 and will be held at The Swain Arts Center.
I had the opportunity to sit with Mrs. Nicole Huett (,my wife, who I see little of during play production,) for a few minutes this week and hear her thoughts on why theater plays such an important role in the life of a community in general and in the school system in particular. Huett is honored to be Swain High School’s new ensemble and theatre teacher.
“It’s been my experience that Swain County truly loves and supports this program! So many in Bryson City have been in a production or have had a child or grandchild that has played a part in bringing a musical to life in our community,” she said. “I’m especially grateful for the support of Rachel Yates and Jay Gilbert in this my first year. They are truly wonderful people who have brought so much to this program. Big shoes to fill, indeed!”
Mrs. Huett began by describing the role of relationship building that occurs during the production of a play.
“Theater is a meeting place for every type of student, a safe place for everyone to be themselves,” she said. “In the communal task of bringing the story to life, students often find themselves becoming friends with others that they might not otherwise befriend.”
This is verified by taking a quick scan of her cast. Athletes, members of the marching band, the student body president and other representatives of the Student Council, as well as members of the chess, HOSA, Magic the Gathering, Space Exploration, JIGSAW and Cinema Clubs are among the cast members.
“A school musical is one of the first places where a student can realize what it is to be a part of something much larger than themselves; each person being a small part of a massive undertaking. In everyone playing his own part, whether acting, lighting and sound, costumes, props or set design, each student discovers themselves as an integral piece in making the magic happen,” says Huett.
In addition to the communal benefits that students gain from being a part of a production, there is a great deal to gain as individuals. Huett believes that by immersing one’s self in a character’s point of view one can often develop a stronger sense of one’s own identity. She is known to regularly state to her students that “Self discovery and becoming the best version of your self is way more important than any success or stardom you might achieve in theater.”
Huett concluded our conversation by offering her thoughts on the power of theater to positively transform a community.
“Productions offer an audience the opportunity to escape from the daily grind and recharge,” she said. “It allows us to place ourselves in another’s shoes and thus develop empathy. As such, it can make the world a more loving and kinder place. Finally, it also allows us to support and celebrate our students.”
Huett is excited for the opportunity to bring live theatre to her community of Swain County.
For more information on Swain High’s upcoming production of Disney’s Freaky Friday the Musical, please visit swain