The Harlem High Drama Club delivers its final performances of the school year Friday and Saturday. The shows also are the final performances of director Roy Lewis’ teaching career.
After nearly 30 years as Harlem High’s drama director, Lewis intends to retire when the school year concludes next month.
For his final show, Lewis chose the classic Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie.
The musical, loosely based on the hysteria surrounding Elvis Presley entering the U.S. Army in the 1950s, holds no sentimental value for Lewis. He said he chose Bye Bye Birdie because it best fit his students’ abilities.
“I really looked at the talent of what we had and thought this show was a great way to showcase that talent,” Lewis said. “I thought it ... a feel-good musical comedy, which we love doing, to end our season on.”
The large ensemble needed for the production includes more than 30 cast members in background parts and eight lead roles.
“It’s a fun story,” Lewis said. “We have a lot of kids on stage for the first time and we’re all having a blast.”
Though Bye Bye Birdie might mark the end of Lewis’ career, which includes 22 region championships and five state titles, he hopes it won’t be the curtain call for Harlem High’s drama program.
When Grovetown High opened three years ago, about half of Harlem’s student population transferred to the new school. The shift gutted the drama program.
“If that (ending the program) becomes a reality, I think it would be a horrible statement about this school and the quality of talent that we have,” Lewis said. “I think it would be a horrible setback to the community because their support always has been amazing.”
Too often, Lewis said, arts programs become the first casualty during times of financial crisis, such as the Columbia County Board of Education is enduring.
“I think the public needs to speak loudly to the board of education that this program is a very viable part of this school,” Lewis said. “We’ve contributed greatly over the years to this school’s and this community’s reputation.”
The arts, in particular drama, Lewis said, is a unifying factor for many people of dissimilar backgrounds.
“I have such a wide and varied group,” he said. “I have band kids. I’ve got flag corps. I’ve got football players. I’ve got soccer players. I’ve got basketball players. I’ve got cheerleaders.
“This is the one place they can all come together and bond. We work hard in establishing a sense of a family.”
To reserve a ticket to see that family in action, call Harlem High at (706) 556-5980, ext. 4243, or email email@example.com. Tickets cost $12.
Performances will be at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Saturday in the school’s auditorium, 1070 Appling Harlem Road, Harlem.