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Wise Summer Arts camp bringing “Matilda: The Musical” to the stage this weekend

BRANDON WHITE, Community Contributor • Jun 28, 2019 at 1:00 PM

COEBURN — It’s one of the most successful musicals of recent history and has won a number of prestigious awards over the last decade. Even more impressive is the fact that students from six different Wise County schools have come together to bring this production to the stage in a first-ever summer performing arts camp.

Director Shane Burke, a teacher from Eastside High School and Coeburn Middle School, explained the vision for the Summer Arts camp.

“It’s something we have wanted to do for a long time, but only recently has the funding for such a program become available. We really want to say how much we appreciate the school board for their support of the arts. It enriches the lives of these students. They have worked so hard to bring this show to life.”

Burke, who is also the coach of the reigning VHSL state champion one act and forensics teams from Eastside, is no stranger to theatre and was delighted to have the opportunity to work with several local colleagues in this endeavor.

Amber Burke, choir teacher and director of the Ladies in Red a capella group from Central High School and L.F. Addington Middle School, has worked as choreographer of the show. “One of the things that appealed to me about ‘Matilda’ was the number of challenging dances in this show,” she said.

Melissa Galliher, music teacher from St. Paul Elementary, and Kathy Stewart, a long-time supporter of children in the arts, have collaborated on music. In addition, Heather Marchant has served as technical director for the show. Marchant has coordinated set construction as well as sound and lighting on many local productions for both school shows and community theatre in the past.

Amber Burke summed up the thinking behind choosing “Matilda” as the inaugural show for the Summer Arts camp. “It’s a fresh, new show. It’s both contemporary and accessible for students. In many ways, it is the perfect show for students, because it is written to feature young actors and is family friendly.”

She went on to explain how the camp is different from normal class time with these students. “Instead of one block at a time, they work all day long, five days a week. This enables them to accomplish more in a short period of time.”

The camp has lasted for the entire month of June, and will culminate with two public performances this weekend.

Leah Shortt, a sophomore from Central, explained how the experience helped her to grow. “It has broadened my skills as a performer. I have developed new singing and speaking techniques. One thing that has really helped me is learning from other people.”

Emma Fox, a junior from Union High School, echoed these sentiments. “It’s cool to see how other people with different ideas come together to make a show. You pick up different lessons from different teachers.”

Cast in the lead role of Matilda, Eastside junior Olivia Adkins talked about the demanding requirements of portraying the lead role. “One of the biggest challenges has been to maintain a British accent throughout the show. The choreography has been exciting and there are some great dance numbers. It’s been a blast working with such a talented cast.”

“We hope this program continues for years to come,” Shane Burke summarized. “It has been a unique opportunity to work with these talented students and I would love to see where it could go in the future.”

The students from Wise County Public Schools’ Performing Arts academy will present “Matilda: The Musical” Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. Shows will be held at Coeburn Middle School. General admission is $10. Student tickets are $7. Kids age 5 and under get in free.