For the past several months, a remarkable group of students from Cape Hatteras Secondary School Drama Club have been working every day after school to create this year’s production of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. For these dedicated high school and middle school students, this has meant sacrificing most other after-school activities, as well as their free time, in the hopes of creating a weekend of Broadway-like drama for the community.
Under the direction of Secondary English teacher Tracy Salmon, the students were putting the finishing touches on a rehearsal just days from the Opening Night performance. Mrs. Salmon moved continuously from the sound booth to the stage and various places around the audience seating. She was calling out for microphones, clarifying when sound effects should rumble, and always making sure the young actors were projecting their voices.
The play includes the efforts of the 25 or so students who have been with the group since the fall. There are more roles than students to fill them, so some students play multiple roles to cover the deficit. They all are clearly having fun as they learn where to stand, when to speak, and how to enter or exit the stage.
As the curtain rose again, someone mentioned hunger, to which Mrs. Salmon announced cheerfully, “If I hear a Funion bag crumple again, I am going to flip out,” as she hustled off stage.
The student actors were engaged, and watched her for their cues and confirmation. She offered ample amounts of both. When asked, they would happily volunteer how many lines they had, as well as how many other students had to memorize.
Yet, the students understand the depth and complexity of what they are creating. “The greatest challenge [of] doing this play was most definitely learning my character,” said Kat Quigley, a 10th grader who plays Kevin, the Prince’s evil sidekick. “Learning lines is one thing, but learning to be the person is much more difficult.”
The idea of teamwork, while no competition is involved, is not lost on the actors. “Waiting for others, correcting others and accepting a small defeat has been really hard for me,” explained 10th grader Madison Kaiser, who plays the Sheriff. “But my favorite part was when someone would mess up, and then we would have a fun moment.”
Grant Hood, who plays the title character of Robin Hood, is in his senior year at CHSS. He comes to the role with a breadth of experience. Before moving to Hatteras, he was enrolled in a performing arts school in Northern Virginia.
The difference in the two schools is palpable, he explained, because his previous school was completely geared to supporting the arts and the students pursuing them. The budget, time commitments and enthusiasm are different.
At CHSS, each program has to compete for the interest and availability of a small population. “It is difficult when there are so many activities students can do and this (school play) really takes a commitment. We are all in this together and everyone is equal in our cast,” Hood said. “We had to learn at times to improvise, and make things work with less. It really feels more like we are making true art in that sense.”
Mrs. Salmon also echoed the importance of the camaraderie of the students in working together. “I am most proud of how the students have come to care for and really take care of each other, regardless of what grade someone is in or what their gender is.”
Sixth grader Ellie Nuzzo is new to public schools and found this to be a challenging way to segue in. “At first I was very stressed. But as we continued rehearsing, it was very fun and I learned a lot,” she explained. “I enjoyed meeting so many different people through this play. I found friends from all different grades, and we all got closer.”
Other students echoed this connection to each other as well. “I was surprised by the chemistry of the group,” added Quigley. “At first I was worried, but as time went by we became a family.”
In September, the drama club students first began meeting and organizing. They had to choose a play, then audition for roles, begin learning lines, plan the stage sets, learn to work together and create what they hope will be three wonderful performances for the local community. The students held weekly bake sales to earn money for costumes and supplies. Everyone who was involved was pivotal to the group’s success as a whole.
“Each student has given countless hours, abandoning many hours of other opportunities, to make our production shine, said Secondary School Principal Beth Rooks. “Each member of the cast is truly a star in their own right.”
Yet the students feel the pressure of being in front of their fellow students, families and the community.
“This is not meant to be perfect. The point here is to see the true world of high school theater.” Salmon said, as she looked around the theater at the hand-painted signs, red velvet curtain and adoring student actors. “I have found where I belong. I am so proud of what we do with what we are given. We may be a small group, but we have a big voice.”
Cape Hatteras Secondary School’s production of Robin Hood and his Merry Men will be presented Friday, Jan. 31, and Saturday, Feb. 1 at 7 pm as well as Sunday, Feb. 2 at 3 pm. There are no advance ticket sales. Doors open at 5:30 on Friday and Saturday for Hot Dogs and BBQ dinner. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for students and under 5 is free.