Student who performed in her first LCHS show in fifth grade now directing as a senior
Story and photos Heather Garrity, LCHS Drama Club
A day full of honors, advanced placement, international Baccalaureate and community college dual enrollment classes. Musical rehearsal right after school, but this time as a student director and not an actor on the stage. A visit to High Point University as part of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Team. Football team photos on game nights.
This is just a small glimpse into the daunting schedule of senior Leah Page, but she carries it with grace.
Page, the daughter of Ed and Emily Page of Sanford, is the student director of Lee County High School’s production of Annie Jr. that will take the stage this weekend in McLeod Auditorium. Page has come full circle since her first production on the LCHS stage in 2015. When she was in fifth grade, Leah was Alice in Alice@Wonderland.
Peyton Freeman, also a senior, recalled her debut: “I was Door #3 and she was Alice. We would sit in her room, and I’d play every other character to help her with that role. Words cannot describe how proud I am of her and the work she is doing.”
Annie Jr. features a cast of students ranging from third to 12th grade. Students are from across the county and have been rehearsing every afternoon after school for the past five weeks. In this short amount of time, they have learned their lines, the music, choreography, where to be on the stage and more under the direction of Page. After this show, she is hopeful that those students who are on the stage for the first time will learn to love theatre like she has.
“It’s been thrilling to have the opportunity to direct and seeing it come together after all of the hard work everyone has put in is extremely rewarding,” Page said.
Isabel Iatauro, a sixth grader from West Lee Middle School plays Annie, the little orphan in search of finding her parents who ends up finding her forever family in the home of billionaire Mr. Warbucks.
“I’m super excited to play the part of Annie,” she said. “This is my dream role. It’s been so much fun working with the cast and crew. I’m very thankful to Leah, Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Coley for believing in me and giving me this opportunity. I love that Annie never gives up on her dream and always sees the best in everything. This story teaches a lot of good lessons.”
Ron Coley, fine arts lead teacher at LCHS, said he loves being able to do productions that are open to participation from younger students.
“It is important to me to be able to introduce the arts to children at a young age,” he said. “Shows like Annie Jr. are able to give the opportunity for first time theatre students to begin that love of acting, music and dance that they may not have had a chance to experience so far in their education.”
There are a number of elementary and middle school students in this production that this is their first time being on a stage. There are also several high school students who are new to theatre and are learning the technical side of being part of a set crew.
Kayla Sherrick, a third grader from Deep River Elementary, said, “This is my first time ever in a play and I love being Molly. I am going to keep on acting.”
Coley also said that it is a great feeling to see students who get the “theatre bug” from watching or participating in a show at the high school and then continue to be involved for years to come. Lorelei Garrity, a sophomore at LCHS, caught that bug when she came to see Leah perform as Alice. Garrity was able to participate in a skit during “I Believe in Make Believe” right before the Alice show, and the rest is history. She has been on several stages in the community, including LCHS productions ever since.
Alexa Hughes, LCHS teacher and music/artistic director of the show, said this has been one of her favorite shows to work on. She has loved seeing the excitement in all of the kids’ faces when it all comes together. This show is also special to Hughes since she gets to work closely with Page. The two met during Alice@Wonderland in her first year of teaching, and Hughes has had the pleasure of working with her during other productions ever since. Page has also been a student in Hughes’ class and a member of the LCHS Show Choir, which Hughes leads.
“Working with Leah has been one of the highlights of my career,” she said. “I have known her for the past eight years and seeing her grow as a performer, and now director, is extremely rewarding as an educator. I am so proud of Leah for putting on this amazing production, and can’t wait to see what she does in the future.”
Annie Jr. runs Oct. 6 (today) at 7 p.m., Oct. 8 (Saturday) at 7 p.m. and Oct. 9 (Sunday) at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults. Tickets are only available online. They can be purchased on gofan.co or by using the Go Fan app.
For more information on this or any upcoming productions of the LCHS Theatre Program or how to become more involved, contact Heather Garrity, publicity and outreach chair for the LCHS Drama Club at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919.478.6644.