DHS performing arts journeys into the woods with new production


Decatur High School’s performing arts department added a new performance to its production schedule this year.

In the past, Decatur has produced a fall play and a spring musical. This year, Elise Eskew-Sparks, a Decatur chorus teacher, and Amy Rawlins, musical theater director, included another musical in the fall.

The spring musical, like last year’s Beauty and the Beast, is typically a large production which allows for many students to participate as members of the cast or backstage crew.

“We realized that while [the spring musical] provides opportunities for lots of students,” Rawlins said, “it didn’t allow us to provide a ‘varsity’ musical for the more polished students or the students that want to study acting outside of high school.”

Eskew-Sparks and Rawlins wanted to add a smaller fall musical which would allow them to be more selective in their casting decisions.

“[Ms. Rawlins and I] love Into the Woods,” Eskew-Sparks said. “It was just the right time and the right people to do a small musical with a small cast.”

By having a more selective cast, Into the Woods was  more competitive in the Shuler Hensley Awards for Georgia High School Musical Theater.

Last year, Anderson McKiernan was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for his role as Gaston in Beauty and the Beast. Rawlins and Eskew-Sparks hope that Into the Woods and its actors will be nominated for similar recognitions.

Although the musical produced seven successful shows, the cast and crew put in months of hard work into the musical that the audience did not see.

The cast began preparing for the musical over the summer and spent multiple Saturday afternoons practicing at the high school. Because there is only one performance space for both the fall play and the fall musical, the cast of Into the Woods worked around the play’s schedule so they would both be able to prepare for their performances.

Junior, Hannah Fisher, took part in both productions. She acted as Florinda in Into the Woods while also prepping for the fall play: Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.

Fisher has been acting since she was four and wanted to challenge herself by doing more. At times, practicing for both productions turned out to be the challenge she was hoping for.

“At some points, I would be jumping from both rehearsals whenever I had a break,” Fisher said.

Despite the practice and preparation over the summer, on the weekends and sometimes for two productions at once, Eskew-Sparks and Rawlins agree that everyone’s hard work paid off.

“It’s all worth it,” Rawlins said. “And we do it because we love it, not because we are looking for recognition.”