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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Highlands Hosts Student-Run Production of 'Spamalot'

Monty Python's Spamalot will be taking the stage at the Highlands High School Performance Arts Center. Highlands Theater Director Jason Burgess is overseeing the production, and has gathered together a collection of talented teens to bring this show to life. 

Spamalot isn't your typical high school production. 

For starters, this show is brought to the stage thanks to the Commonwealth Artists Summer Theater (C.A.S.T.) program, which features students from throughout the entire Greater Cincinnati Area. 

“This production is different because we are collaborating with some many other schools and students to create this product. The talents of outside of the district students have really elevated the production that the audience is going to see,” said Burgess. 

40 of the show's 75 cast and crew members are Highlands High School students.
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This summer theater program also allows Highlands to host shows that otherwise might not have been possible to produce. “It is also different because it is a type of show that we normally cannot do during the school year because of cast requirements, content, technical requirements, etc.,” said Burgess.

C.A.S.T. provides local students with a rare opportunity: to participate in a production created completely by teens. For Burgess, handing over the reins to the students can be both challenging and rewarding at the same time. 

“It is extremely stressful but also the greatest reward," said Burgess. "We really challenge the students to problem-solve and create the solution. At times you want to step in and do it for them but you recognize that they do not learn that way. I think the students love it because we are allowing them to have artistic license and freedom. It is definitely scary for them at first but they know that we are here for them and we will not let them fail.”​ 

The students' talents have continued to amaze Burgess throughout the rehearsal process, which began in May. They are truly the ones running the show - there are no adults controlling the light and sound boards or working the backstage area, and all of the sets have been designed and built by the students.They have successfully worked together to bring high quality theater to Highlands' stage. 

According to Burgess, the students especially enjoy being part of the community of cast and crew that is created each summer thanks to the C.A.S.T. productions. The shows allow the students to forge lasting bonds with other teens they might not have otherwise had the chance to meet during the school year. 

"There are strong friendships that are forming and last beyond the summer. I have former members of C.A.S.T. who are from different schools that are college roommates with each other now, who go to each other shows during the school year. They are friends in general, not just with this show. They love putting on the shows don’t get me wrong and they love the selection of shows that we choose but it is the student bonding that they love the most," said Burgess. ​

When you attend a Spamalot performance, be prepared to laugh. A lot. If there's one thing the Monty Python crew knows, it's how to keep the audience laughing throughout a show. According to Burgess, "Spamalot tells the legendary tale of King Arthur’s quest to find the Holy Grail. Inspired by the classic comedy film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the musical also diverts a bit from more traditional versions of the legend. Instead, Spamalot features shenanigans including a line of beautiful dancing girls, a flatulent Frenchmen and killer rabbits. Throughout the show, Arthur, traveling with his servant Patsy, recruits several knights to accompany him on his quest, including Sir Bedevere, Sir Robin, Sir Lancelot and Sir Galahad. "

For those Monty Python newcomers out there, you don't have to be a Monty Python and the Holy Grail veteran to enjoy the Spamalot experience. Just be ready to laugh while also enjoying some great musical numbers. The show's original Broadway run won three Tony Awards for the 2004-2005 season, including the coveted Best Musical award. 

By attending a Spamalot performance, you are not only supporting local talent, but also helping students grow in their creative and personal lives. "The main thing that I hope they get is that anything is possible," said Burgess. "Some of these students are a part of other theatre programs throughout the year where there are extreme limitations and they cannot put on the show that they want to. I hope they leave C.A.S.T. knowing that they can be a part of greatness. Not just be a part of it, but BE the greatness."

You can catch a performance of Spamalot July 8 - 10 and July 15 - 17 at the Highlands High School Performance Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased through ShowTix4U

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