Of the many tasks COVID-19 has changed or eliminated, I have missed in-person interviews the most. Specifically, in-person interviews with young people. Talking with our local kids is often the best part of my job, and it really fell by the wayside over the past year and a half.
That’s why I was so excited when I found myself inside the Eureka Springs High School auditorium two weeks ago, watching students trickle in, drop their backpacks and wait for Mr. Mann to direct them. I was there to interview the students participating in the Singin’ in the Rain musical, one of the first live public events the school offered in some time.
Have you resumed a regular activity after taking a break for a while? It feels pretty weird, right? I’ve been doing this job for nearly seven years, and I found myself getting nervous as the students gathered around me — an anxiety I hadn’t felt in more than five years!
But everything smoothed out once I started talking to the students, probably because they were just as nervous as I was. Several students told me it was their first or second musical, and they were worried about performing in public. At the end of one interview, a student said he was stupid for being so nervous.
“Hey, don’t ever call yourself stupid,” I said. “Being nervous about something means you care about it. When you care about something, you do it well.”
Sure enough, I watched on Friday night as that student completely transformed on stage. There was no stuttering, no filler words, no indication of stage fright whatsoever. He didn’t just power through the performance —he performed like he’d been doing it all his life. I was so impressed.
His performance was matched by equally impressive performances, whether we’re talking about the ensemble or the leading roles or all the stage hands who made the musical possible. Everybody gave it their all. As I know from working with the Carroll County News team, the musical wasn’t successful because of any one person. It was a hit because everybody pulled their weight.
I attended the musical with my husband, Gideon, and our good friend Stephanie. Steph leaned in at least 20 times to say something like, “Wow, they are so good!” Gideon clapped so hard I thought his hands might fall off — it’s a good thing I drove! One of the leading actors was Gideon’s former student, and his face beamed with pride each time the curtain closed for a scene change.
As the audience dispersed into the parking lot, we waited to catch up with Superintendent Bryan Pruitt and his wife, Eileen. I used to chat with Eileen during school board meetings, something else that fell by the wayside during the pandemic. While we caught up, Gideon congratulated passing students on their performances.
“Thanks, Mr. Keas!” they chirped back.
All in all, it was a fantastic way to kick off the weekend. We loved engaging with our community for the first time in a long time. I was enchanted by all the performances, the lighting, the sound and the sets. Events like this are extra special when you get a behind-the-scenes look, as I often do.
To everyone that worked on the musical, I say bravo! Hard work pays off, and passion is rare to see in such magnitude. I can’t wait to see what the ESHS drama department puts on next year.