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Theater students surprised with $10,000 grant

Charles+Pierson%2C+junior%2C+plays+Mr.+Mushnik+in+Little+Shop+of+Horrors.+%22Playing+Mr.+Mushnik+really+pulled+me+out+of+my+self+And+made+me+explore+different+aspects+that+I+never+would+have+looked+for+had+I+not+play+Mr.+Mushnik%2C%22+Pierson+said.+
Charles Pierson, junior, plays Mr. Mushnik in Little Shop of Horrors.

Charles Pierson, junior, plays Mr. Mushnik in Little Shop of Horrors. "Playing Mr. Mushnik really pulled me out of my self And made me explore different aspects that I never would have looked for had I not play Mr. Mushnik," Pierson said.

Kaitlyn Eckhard

Kaitlyn Eckhard

Charles Pierson, junior, plays Mr. Mushnik in Little Shop of Horrors. "Playing Mr. Mushnik really pulled me out of my self And made me explore different aspects that I never would have looked for had I not play Mr. Mushnik," Pierson said.

Kumari Pacheco, Staff Writer

Kumari Pacheco
The NBC congratulatory poster sent to GCAA’s Drama Department.

Rise is a new NBC drama about high school theater that aired March 13th and continues to do so every Tuesday at 10 p.m. Eastern Time. Besides being praised as the next big drama on the screen, Rise is also popular for its endorsement of real-life student actors, particularly with its R.I.S.E America Grant — an award of $10,000 to 50 drama departments across the country.

GCAA’s drama department first caught wind of this competition through William Sheley, the head of the department, who himself received an email from the Education Theatre Association.

“The qualifications were pretty straight forward,” Sheley said. “I wrote a letter telling the panel about our school and our need for funding. They asked us to give some background about the school, the student body, etcetera. They asked for a short video that included some examples of the work we do and some interviews with students (Aurora Phillips helped put that together) and a letter from our Principal, Ms. Bell-Moore, recommending the program for consideration.”

After all of this was done, Sheley submitted the application into a pool of nearly a thousand applications and awaited the news.

While winners were nationally disclosed on March 5th, Sheley was notified of GCAA’s selection a week earlier.

“The most painful part of this process was when I received the phone call informing me that we were awarded the grant,” he said. “We had to sign a non-disclosure contract promising not to tell anyone about the award until it was announced, nationally, the following week. I had to keep this great news to myself for almost a week. It nearly killed me.”

On March 5th, GCAA’s drama classes viewed a congratulatory video from NBC. It spoke of the show Rise’s appreciation of the young actors who sacrifice time and effort for performance on the stage, and described the nature of the prize — a whopping $10,000.

For Sheley, however, the prize did not seem quite as massive.

“As generous as the $10,000 dollars is, and as thankful for as we are for it, it doesn’t go far,” he said. “Theatre is expensive.”

As of now, the money will be used to purchase four Ellipsoidals (lights) for the Sun Theater, a portable lighting package to be used in the theatre and the Black Box, and five wireless microphone packs. Anything that is left over will be used to purchase undecided classroom materials.

Sheley doubts that R.I.S.E America Grant will accept previous grant winners — therefore GCAA will not again be able to participate — but in this, he finds comfort.

“Personally, I would like to see as many high school theatre programs get the money as possible,” he said. “There are so many under-funded arts programs in our country, they all deserve some help.”

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Theater students surprised with $10,000 grant