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By Sharon Warner

Parents and teachers gathered from all around the county March 8 to enjoy an evening of "Voices," the theme that was interpreted differently by Talented And Gifted (TAG) dance and drama students from both middle and both high schools in the county.

Shelby County High School presented monologues and interpretive dance that portrayed "Voices of Oppression." Kathie Wrightson, SCHS TAG teacher, wrote the multi-media piece entitled "Human Cargo" using poems by children of the Holocaust. The opening scene recreated the life and times of five adolescents forced out of their homes and into the German -Jewish ghettos of 1943. She said, "Both lyric prose and narrative told the stories of human transports, of separation, and of loss. The story of two sisters who were separated at the onset of the war was told using film that featured authentic photographs archived at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Photos of faces of children who lived during the time depicted for the audience the startling transition of peace into war for Jewish families."

Alicia was played by Ashton Stovall, Rudie by Matthew Perry, Etienne by Ben Stapleton, Helka by Katie Hudgens, and Katherine by Claire Schaeffer. Dancers Lauren Dale and Alexandra Skellie accentuated the piece by interpreting "My Immortal" by Evanescence with an interpretive dance choreographed by Denise Gillman of Gillman Dance Studio.

East and West middle schools took the stage with "Voices of Freedom." Student Claire Dale introduced the piece, followed by monologues given by Lindsey Hill who played Lilly, a 14-year-old girl forced to care for wounded soldiers; Sam Smith, who portrayed Adolf Schwitzer, a Hessian working for the British; Angel, an escaped African-American slave given by A.J. Jordan; Steven, a teen-aged boy who has lost his family to the British, played by Payton Ruddy; Stephanie, a teen-aged girl who longs to fight for freedom, played by Hadley George; and Kendall Souder, who depicted Rebecca, an accomplished horsewoman who rides to alert her neighbors of the British invasion.

Dancers - Caroline Shy, Tatum Plyler, Ryan Goodlett, Taylor Smitha, Claire Dale, Sydney Rogers, Rachel Dove, Myah Rice, and Kyrien Stone - executed a Precision Dance to "Liberty Bell" by John Phillip Sousa, which was also choreographed by Gillman.

Other monologues included: Peter, a young doctor at Valley Forge who writes to his wife: Andrew Wolfe; Sarah, Peter's young wife, left alone on the family farm: Kara Holbrook; Blair, a spy captured by the British: Ryan Goodlett; Lindsey, a young girl afraid for her father: Emma Saarinen; Mac, a boy who carries a message for George Washington: Ruthie Sangster.

A lyrical dance was presented to "If No One Will Listen" by Kelly Clarkson, choreographed by the East and West Middle TAG Dancers themselves.  Sydney Rogers, Kyrien Stone, Myah Rice, Rachel Dove, Taylor Smitha, Lindsey Hill, Claire Dale, Caroline Shy, Ryan Goodlett, and Tatum Plyler all choreographed and danced beautifully!

Martha Layne Collins High School rounded out the evening with their performance, "Voices of Innocence Lost," an adaptation of "The Sound of Music," adapted by Amy Dyer, TAG teacher. In the first sequence, Zoe Welch and Austin Shirley gave convincing performances of Liesl and Rolf sharing their affection for one another in their secret night stolen away in the formal garden of Liesl's father's estate. Four pairs of dancers, Delaney Boone and Steven Cheppo, Jane Foote and Taylor Nash, Brianna Hood and Austin Shirley, and Megan Nix and Johnny Nava, performed the choreography orchestrated by Gillman to "Sixteen Going on Seventeen."

Dyer said, "Narrators told the devastating story of how a nation that once embraced different cultures was forced into succumbing to the evil of the Third Reich, augmented by the scene at the ball where Captain von Trapp, played by Josh St. Esprit, and Herr Zeller, played by Ryan Ruff, face off in a battle of wits and argue about whether Austria should join Hitler's regime."

MLCHS dancers took the stage and danced to "The Lonely Goatherd," the song becoming a symbolism of the nation that wanted to keep its childlike innocence.

"The narrators told of the defeat of people like Captain von Trapp, those who didn't want to bow down to the Fuhrer's demands," Dyer said. "The wave of Nazism overcame and the dissenters were forced to run, von Trapp even leading his family to America to escape the militarism that was engulfing Europe. Still, the von Trapps would honor their patriotism to their beloved Austria and continue to dream of the beautiful edelweiss, the national flower of Austria, which graced the landscape like 'blossoms of snow.'"

The dancers ended the performance with a formal dance to the song "Edelweiss."

Christian Willard ran the sound and lights, Alex Workman took care of the technology, and Mackenzi Poehlein worked as Stage Manager.