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May 3, 2014

A TICKET TO RIDE: JHS Theatre fundraiser to pave the way for trip

JEFFERSONVILLE — They got the invitation, but they still have to pay their way.

Jeffersonville High School’s theater department was adjudicated into the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska, for the first time since 2005 with its production of “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” They’re one of eight schools from across the country performing.

But they still have to foot the bill to ship the set, lighting, students and musicians there in June — about $50,000. Though they’re about halfway there, directors said they hope a fundraising gala at 6 p.m. Monday, May 5, at Derby Dinner Playhouse will bring them even closer to the goal.

“The kids are thrilled,” Patti Miller, program director, said. “They’re just excited to work and come back together again on the show. They’re excited to say they’ve been selected to go to Nebraska and their feet aren’t touching the ground right now.”

Students will perform certain musical numbers from the show Monday and also talk about why it’s important for them to go to the festival next month.

It’s not just a chance to perform to a national audience that’s at stake, Miller said. Students will perform in front of talent scouts for major theater schools and conservatories from around the country. She said it’s a big opportunity for them to get noticed and further their education in the field.

Michael Howard, director, said there’s an auction and other activities  planned Monday, but it’s really about the students.

“It’s a little more special than if you were just going to a show; this is really a celebration of the show,” Howard said. “You get to see more about the kids and the students involved.”

Some of the auction prizes include a basketball signed by Rick Pitino, coach of the University of Louisville Cardinals men’s team and a week-long condo stay in Destin, Florida.

Howard said when the show was judged by members of the International Thespian Society, one of them said they felt like they were looking at the future of Broadway.

Sarah Inman, a junior in the show, said to get that kind of review was unbelievable.

“I look around and so many people are huge stars, and it makes me ask if I could be up to that caliber of talent,” Inman said. “This makes me feel like I can and it makes me want to continue to pursue what I love doing, which is acting and dancing. From there, the sky’s the limit.”

Vincent Thomas, another junior in the show, said he feels like going to the festival is a stepping stone for his chance at approaching theater professionally.

“It makes me feel proud,” Thomas said. “It makes me feel like I’m that much closer for a dream that I have. For someone of that status to say something like that, it’s almost unbelievable. I don’t think I could dream of someone saying something like that.”

He also said the show’s directors made sure the students always pushed themselves. While they encouraged them on their good work, they also didn’t let them grow their egos too much.

Miller said because of their focus, they deserve to go to the festival.

“They earned the honor by their hard work and dedication last fall,” Miller said. “They produced a stellar show that showcases their unique talents and strengths. In addition to that, not only do the students have the opportunity to perform, they’ll perform twice in a sold-out facility.”

Tickets for the gala are $70 for one, $120 for double tickets and $500 for a table sponsorship. Businesses can also purchase sponsorships at three different levels for $1,000, $2,500. The city of Jeffersonville is the title sponsor after its $5,000 donation to the program.

Miller said smaller fundraisers — such as car washes and others — will follow the gala and they’ll accept donations up until they leave right before June 22. The school will also reopen the show May 9 and 10, the last time they’ll perform before an audience until the festival.

Inman said she can’t wait to get to Nebraska, but knows she won’t have gotten there without the help of the community she lives in.

“We just want to say how grateful we are to the people who are trying to help us,” Inman said. “It’s our dream and we get to live it because of those people.”

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