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Education/Schools

April 21, 2014

City donates to Jeffersonville High Theater Department's travel to international festival

Group to perform "Smokey Joe's" in Nebraska in June

JEFFERSONVILLE — A standing ovation erupted Monday night when the Jeffersonville City Council unanimously voted to help Jeffersonville High School’s theater department travel to a competition across the country.

The high school’s fall production of “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” placed as one of the top eight theater performances in the country by the International Thespian Society, landing the group a spot in the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Neb., in June. The city will be the title sponsor — meaning it will donate $5,000 — at the theater department’s benefit gala to raise money for the trip.

Patti Miller, a theater director at Jeff High, said the festival will give students the opportunity to perform at two sold out shows in a facility comparable to the Kentucky Center for the Arts and also interview with talent scouts from top theater universities around the country.

“It is powerful and it is jaw-dropping what these students can do,” Miller said. “I take no credit for this. This is the kids, and this is the level of talent that we have in this school.”

The costs of  attending the festival, which includes everything from paying sound technician’s flights and physically moving the entire set to Nebraska, totals about $85,000. So far, the department has raised about $11,000.

“The city of Jeffersonville has much to offer from Jeffersonville High School,” Miller said. “We feel like being able to present the high school and its achievements is something that also benefits the city.”

The biggest fundraiser will be the Gala at Derby Dinner Playhouse on May 5 at 6 p.m. where the theater department will perform “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” supported by business sponsors from around the city, said Michael Howard, also a theater director at the school.

“Through this, we want to give them advertisement and show this is a community that stands behind one another and sees in our youth what the future can hold,” Howard said.

Councilman Matt Owen, who made the motion for approval of the city’s title sponsorship, was a part of the school’s theater department five years ago.

“Doing what you’ve done is something that we always wanted to do, and my class never got a chance,” Owen said. “So I’m very envious of your opportunity and very proud to see that the Jeff High Theater Department is going where it’s going.”

Miller said that the show is rarely performed by high schools because of the level of difficulty.

“These kids carry it off without a hitch,” she said.

“Smokey Joe’s Cafe” features the music of Leiber and Stroller, and all the actors in the performance play themselves in a different time period.

“What happens in the show is that the songs evoke a scrapbook of memories of growing up when those songs were popular in the neighborhood and belonging to a group of friends,” she said.

Sophia Burns, one of the students in the performance, said that because the show involves constant movement on stage, all the actors spent last summer physically training for the performance — all which made their title worth the work.

“We were so happy because there was a lot of blood sweat and tears put in,” Burns said.

When Miller, Howard and their students left city hall after the council granted approval, they all cheered.

“It’s just a tremendous boost for the students and for the program to know that we have the title sponsor who’s behind us and supporting us,” she said. “And we’re on our way.”

CONTRACTING CODE RED

The council also approved $15,000 for a two-year contract with Code Red, an emergency text alert system, after weeks of conversation.

Councilwoman Lisa Gill said that Code Red agreed to keep the same price for a split contract, which was originally for four years.

Code Red is contracting with Charlestown, and Gill said that the company thinks there would be good business in Jeffersonville.

“I personally believe we’re going to have really good participation,” Gill said.

Gill called each council member individually before the item was placed on the agenda for approval.

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