Musical theatre class enters first year at Decatur

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The new musical theatre elective has over 45 students and includes singing, dancing, and acting in its curriculum.

The class is taught by Dr. Elise Eskew-Sparks, who also teaches chorus, and Amy Rawlins, who also teaches drama. They both came to DHS five years ago and have been trying to create this fusion class for the past three.

Creating a class takes “an act of congress”, Eskew-Sparks said. The fact that Decatur has had three different principals in four years has made the process harder.

What ultimately pushed the class into existence was that “the need was expressed by not just us, that students expressed that they wanted it, that parents expressed that they wanted it and that we expressed that it would help our kids,” Rawlins said.

The nature and size of the class lend itself to being co-taught. Eskew-Sparks teaches singing, and Rawlins does choreography as well as acting.

Currently, the class is working on several different pieces. One of them is a selection of songs from Schoolhouse Rock that will be performed at elementary schools as well as the Decatur Book Festival this weekend.

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These are sophomore Hannah Fischer’s character shoes. She wears them during musical theatre class. Her favorite part of the class is tap dancing, even though she also sees it as the most difficult part.

The other piece is a combination of songs sung individually as well as a pair of songs that will be sung as a group. These songs have a “then and now” theme, and they span from old broadway to shows created in the past few years.

“I love being with all of the people in the class and learning the choreography and music we are doing,” said Eliza Craft, a sophomore enrolled in musical theatre. According to Craft, the class requires lots of focus, especially when learning the dances.

According to Eskew-Sparks, the musicals in Decatur the past few years have been very strong. Because of the quantity of talent at the school, students should have the opportunity to practice musical theatre besides the eight weeks of the spring musical, according to Rawlins.

“It is worth putting in print that one of Decatur’s strengths is the arts,” Eskew-Sparks said.

Graphic by Lily Guthrie and photo by Emilia Couture