The Final Curtain
Playmakers include, from left, front row, Beckett Bathanti, Emma Willard, Ashley Harkins, Amanda Carringer, Jessica Presnell and Robbie Nickel; middle row, Taylor Cody, Kevin Logan, Carmela White, director Sarah Miller, Abby Foster, and Ethan Woodring; and back row, standing, Marissa Pannell, Anna Lowe, Emily Bushman, Cam Haas, Dylan Russell, Bryan Williams and Hayden Brown.
When the curtain falls this time, there will be no encore.
It's starting to sink in for the drama students at Watauga High School. This week, they're joining with theater alumni, the same students behind controversial shows like John Lennon and Me, as they rehearse for the Final Curtain Show Saturday.
"This has been a good stage for all different types of theater," Trimella Chaney said.
She would know. Chaney started the program in 1988, and she's back on the familiar stage to choreograph and help organize its send-off.
"I'm so thrilled that the program is growing,, and I'm excited about the new school and I'm sort of the resident dinosaur, so I come back to give them some history to take with them," she said.
It's not the same stage from '88.
"It used to be just me and it was in a vanilla space," Chaney said.
Then came the kids.
"We have great kids," she said.
And Chaney remembers everyone she taught in those 18 years. From the alum honored with an international tech theater award to the manager of the Missoula Children's Theatre and the artistic director for the Children's Theatre of Hawaii.
"I think that we also have wonderful citizens and parents who came out of this program ... who put real value on the arts," she said.
One such wonderful citizen is Sarah Miller, who is jokingly called "the new Miss Chaney."
Miller, a graduate of the WHS drama program in 1989, has her photograph on the wall with countless other alumni, and returned to take over for Chaney when she retired five years ago. She was part of the first Playmaker group at Watauga High School and has seen the changes firsthand.
"When I was a junior in high school, Miss Chaney came over and started the daytime class program ... there were about 50 students," she said.
Now, 22 years later, there are nearly 300 kids involved in Watauga drama each year.
From that first musical (You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, Miller was Lucy), Miller knew she had found her calling, a calling she credits to Chaney.
"I thought, I'd like to grow up and be her," she said.
When the students decided to say goodbye to the old theater, Miller knew Chaney had to be involved.
"You can hardly think about the Watauga theater program without thinking of her," she said.
Who better to prepare the flock for the new school?
"It's been an honor ... just listening to the history of things," theater student, senior and student body president Dylan Russell said.
It's a history that will take to the new school, photo by photo.
During the Final Curtain production, performers will remove the alumni headshots from the walls of the old theater to take to the new stage, a stage that promises to finally be worthy of one of the biggest high school drama departments in the state.
The new theater, one without walls to allow for easy entrances and exits, will be about the future. For one night only on Final Curtain, the old theater will be about what has past, what was accomplished on the stage.
"The focus is on the memories we made here ... this was a very special place where a lot of people learned growing up lessons and formed such sincere relationships and learned what it meant to be ensemble," Chaney said.
The final bow happens Saturday, and alumni are asked to participate by showing up to rehearsal during the day.
The May 22 rehearsal schedule is as follows: 9 a.m., coffee and doughnuts; 9:30 a.m., Cleanin' Women; 10:30 a.m., I'm Shy; 11 a.m., Dearly Departed; 11:30 a.m., Fame dancers; noon, Cain't Get a Man with a Gun; 12:30 p.m., Newlywed Sketch, returning Playmakers; 1 p.m., Oklahoma chorus and Dusty; 2 p.m., Happiness, Playmakers 1988 and 2009; 3 p.m., We Go Together, Grease casts of 1990 and 2000, and anyone who wants to be in the number; 4 p.m., Those Were the Good Ole Days; 4:30 p.m., Who Am I Kidding, I'm No Hero; and 5 p.m., Trouble Shooting.
The show happens at 7 p.m. and will be free of charge. Theater alumni are encouraged to attend.