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A production 77 years in the making

20120423-VMHS-Theater-Group-008VMHS advances to state competition

MISSION — This May, 23 students are set to embark on Veteran Memorial High School’s first trip to the state finals for the U.I.L. one-act play competition. While it’s their school’s first appearance at the state level, it’s been 77 years since the Mission school district has had a one-act play troupe compete at the state level.

A few weeks ago, the VMHS Harlequins won the district UIL title for the fifth year in a row.

The students will perform Jeffrey Hatcher’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” on May 22 in Austin. To raise money for their trip, they’ll have a public performance May 16 at 7 p.m., at the VMHS Fine Arts Theater. Admission is $5.

For teacher and director Jim Hodgson, last week’s win, which allowed them to advance from the regional to state competition, is the biggest accomplishment. While the group would like to win at state, Hodgson said he and the students have already won.

“Their ability to connect with characters as an ensemble is amazing,” Hodgson said of his students.

Several students have been involved in the theatre program as young students since junior high into their senior year.

“This is what we’ve been looking forward to all these four years,” said senior Paulo Herevia who plays Gabriel Utterson and Edward Hyde, adding that he and his classmates are the underdogs in the May competition. “It’s nice to show the talent we have.”

For Taylor Brown, who plays a policeman in the show, said the group’s dedication was out on display last weekend during their performance and as the group heard their school name and play announced, “It brought tears to my eyes.”

Members of the Harlequins play are Raul Gonzalez, Paulo Herevia, Alex Hinojosa, Brian Mueller, Katherine Rodriguez, Juan Cantu, Kimberly Stuart, Andrea Gonzalez, Briana Salinas, Anna Olivarez, Jorge Ortiz, Steven Ruiz, Katian Lopez, Brandon Hernandez, Yessenia Gonzalez, Marco De Anda, Jessica Buentello, Louis Brown, Emily Cantu, Micaela Cantu, Karla Gastel, Arjon Bashiri and Gonzalo Arevalo.

In 1935, when the Mission school district sent a theatre troupe to the state competition, the students performed “Sparkin” by E.P. Conkle. The group also earned the title as best in the state that year.

The VMHS theatre group is young, formally practicing in the common area of the school’s main building before getting its own auditorium. And while local districts still struggle with making ends meet to educate students, Hodgson said he and his two other directors, do the best their can with their cast.

“We’ll make it work,” he said, adding that the support from the parents, district administrators and staff and the community help push the students to succeed. “You can’t do it without incredible kids, dedicated kids and supportive parents and administrators. It comes together like the perfect storm.”

The theatre program, Hodgson explained, breeds successful students who go on to perform well in the classroom and later in college or their careers.

“I think we have a great group of kids doing great things,” he said.

Many of these students are groomed for these performances as young teenagers in the middle school theatre programs, which eventually feeds its talent into the district’s two high schools, said Joe Hernandez, a director who also works with Mission Jr. High students.

“It starts and the junior high level,” he said. “I think we have a strong foundation there.”

And as the program here grows, Hodgson said it’s a good recruiting tool for potential members through open enrollment in the district.

“People come to this school to be a part of this,” Hodgson said sitting in the auditorim. “It sets up apart.”

The plays the students produce also mold the commuity into becoming theatre buffs with nearly every performance being sold out.

“It makes the whole district and the community proud,” he said of his students’ successes.

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CoverageAreaThe Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.

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