Troy high school theatre department wins $10,000 R.I.S.E. grant

Troy high school theatre department wins $10,000 R.I.S.E. grant
Charles Henderson theatre students react to winning grant (Source: WSFA 12 News)

TROY, AL (WSFA) - Charles Henderson High School's theater department in Troy is one of only 50 schools in the country to win a $10,000 gr ant tied the R.I.S.E. American gr ant Initiative.

In anticipation of the premiere of NBC's new show "Rise", NBC partnered with the Educational Theatre Foundation to award a total of $500,000 to deserving high school theatre programs nationwide. WSFA 12 News brought the announcement to Charles Henderson High School LIVE on Today in Alabama Monday morning.

"$10,000 is huge for our department," described Drama Director Judith Park. "I come in each year with zero budget. We have what we got the year before from ticket sales and small fundraisers."

To apply for the gr ant, high schools were required to submit a short video, written essay and recommendation letter online "just explaining our story, so they really wanted to see the heart of our program," Park explained

Student Nelsey Leverette spearheaded Charles Henderson's video, shooting interviews and rehearsals to give "a true behind the scenes look at our show process," Park described. "And she narrated behind it about how much we work together having little."

The new show, "Rise", is based on a true story about a High School teacher who takes over a lackluster theatre department. It follows the unique challenges faced in high school drama departments every day, and the unique source of inspiration that is found there.

One of the issues "Rise" addresses is the idea that sports are schools' top priorities, and that athletes can't be involved in both sports and drama. At Charles Henderson High School, students say progress is already being made on that front.

"I grew up playing sports my whole life since I was 5 years old," said Nelsey Leverette. "Even when I did start the theater program here as a freshman, I was still playing varsity soccer here at Charles Henderson. It was definitely a struggle, they're both really time-heavy extra-curricular activities. I think here at Charles Henderson, we're very blessed to have an administrative staff that really does support both the arts and sports,"

Leverette chose to stick with just theatre for now. She and her team are preparing to take the stage this week in a new production called "The Theory of Relativity".

"The theory of relativity has a lot to with human connection and how the things that happen in your life and the choices you make affect those around you," student Jacob Brooks described the show. "It is about not only the effect you have on others but your ability to connect with them and the major impacts you make in their life,"

The Theory of Relativity is a musical based on Albert Einstein's landmark Theory of Relativity and the principles that underpin his belief that "only a life lived for others is worth living".

NBC and the R.I.S.E. American Educational Theatre Foundation will announce the other winning schools Monday afternoon. Charles Henderson High School is already planning where the gr ant money will go.

"We're hoping to add to our technical elements. So lighting, sound equipment, monitors, more microphones, so every child has equal opportunity to be heard," said Park. "I think it's just so telling of my students, that they care this much about theater and bringing education theater to the forefront to show the rest of our student body how important it is to support the arts, to get involved, and find your place in the theater. They did most of this on their own, and it was that important to them to make it great. It says so much about the students I teach and their character,"

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