(Published April 11, 2022)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Editor
Shekinah Christian School is showcasing student talents with an art exhibit and musical on April 22-23.
It won’t be the first time the school has combined art and music this school year.
“We have really talented artists in this school. We have to find a way for people to see their art,” said K-12 music teacher Christian Bechtol. “So we came up with the idea of putting some art in our Christmas concert. It made everything different. Instead of boring brick walls, art is the first thing people see when they walk in. It really sets the tone and attracts more people to school on those nights.
For the upcoming art exhibit and musical, doors open at 6 p.m. nightly. The musical “Annie Jr.” begins at 7 p.m. The staging lasts about an hour. Visitors are invited to view the works displayed in the corridors before and after the musical.
Grades 1-12 art teacher Delores Groh loves the extra opportunities to show off student artwork. Shekinah hosts a gala every two years that features small musical numbers, a large art exhibit, and student demonstrations. It is the off year.
“Christian is new to Shekinah this year, and he really wanted to make it a collaborative artistic effort,” she said.
The art exhibit will feature Greek faces on urns by fifth-grade students and colored pencil and pen-and-ink drawings of still lifes by high school students.
Fifth-grade middle school students were inspired by their studies of abstract artist Alma Woodsey Thomas. They created their own abstract pieces.
“They turned out so cool,” Groh said. “I displayed them all together as a unit. It’s just a bright, colorful and fun abstract display.
First-year middle school students came up with their own versions of Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting, “The Starry Night.” Groh said it was interesting to see how students of different ages and skill levels interpreted the painting.
“I love having all grade levels and seeing the students grow in their artistic abilities. They’re so driven and have such a good work ethic,” said Groh, now in his sixth year as an art teacher at Shekinah.
Due to COVID-19, it’s been a few years since Shekinah last performed a musical. The school was set to perform “Fiddler on the Roof” in 2020, but the pandemic shut everything down a week or two before the show.
Bechtol said he wasn’t sure about the impact of the hiatus this year, but he was pleasantly surprised when 33 students auditioned for this year’s show, “Annie Jr.”
The one-act production is a shorter, child-friendly version of the well-known musical “Annie”, about the adventures of a brave orphan in New York.
Sixth grader Grace Giddens plays the title character.
“When Grace came to the audition, she had pretty much everything (the script) memorized,” Bechtol said. “When she goes on stage, she knows how to fit into the character of Annie. She is always active, always ready to go.
Sophomore Allison Beachy plays Molly, Annie’s best friend at the orphanage. Traditionally, the actress who plays Molly is a younger little girl, but in Shekinah’s version, Molly is taller than Annie. Beachy had to adjust her lines because a lot of them refer to her height.
Several other cast members have also put their own stamp on the series. Senior Lillia Kilzer plays Miss Hannigan, the cruel director of the orphanage. Junior Grace Newman plays Lily, the whiny girlfriend of Rooster, Miss Hannigan’s brother, played by senior Marcus Peachey.
“The three of them came up with a tap routine for one of the songs,” Bechtol said. “They’re not even supposed to be in this song, but they found a way to do it. It turned out to be a really cool thing, and it’s all due to them.
Rounding out the lead roles are Shay Greenwell, who plays billionaire Oliver Warbucks, and Alayna Schrader, who plays Grace Farrell, Warbucks’ personal secretary. Greenwell does a great job pulling off the stiff, formal persona of Warbucks.
“He knocked us out of the water in the auditions,” Bechtol said.
As for Schrader, Bechtol said his personality matched that of his character – down to earth, well-spoken and gentle.
“Alayna is always a vibe of good energy, and that’s what she brings to the scene,” he said.
He also praises the students who play orphans, saying they move well together in their own group.
“I’m going to go ahead and say it: I have the best orphans ever!” says Bechtol. “They are probably the most excited of all in the group. They’ll walk down the hall between classes, sing songs from the show, or talk about what to do with their costumes. They are always in the moment.
Bechtol said everyone on the show, regardless of their part, is invested in the production. Even students who don’t have a role on stage contributed. Shekinah hosts an enrichment week where students are introduced to new hobbies and activities. Bechtol edited a leaflet on scenography. Students both in and out of the show worked together to paint the rotating panels that provide onstage backdrops.
As for props, costumes, and some of the sound equipment, Bechtol is grateful for loans he received from Country Closet Thrift Shop, Rosedale Bible College, and parents of students.
Tickets for “Annie Jr.” can be purchased online at Tickets. Including purchase fees, they are $12 for adults, $10 for students and $25 for a family of up to five members. Tickets can also be purchased at the door on show nights; all tickets at the door are $13.