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GW students 'Succeed' in show biz

By Autumn D. F. Hopkins
Courtesy photo
George Washington High School's Theatre of the Nevertheless is an entirely student-run organization. The troupe stages the musical comedy "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" at the Civic Center Little Theater this weekend.

WANT TO GO?

"How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"

Presented by GWHS Theatre of the Nevertheless

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday, 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Civic Center Little Theater

COST: Adults $12, students $10

INFO: 304-348-7729 CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- George Washington High School senior Nick Staples is no novice to the stage.

In a theatrical career that began at age 4, he cut his teeth with the Children's Theatre of Charleston and has performed with both Kanawha Players and Charleston Light Opera Guild. He has acted in such shows as "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Peter Pan" and "Hairspray," and he is currently preparing for the Guild's "Evita," opening May 3.

Simultaneous with his "Evita" rehearsals, Staples is directing George Washington High School's presentation of the musical comedy "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." The show opens Friday at the Civic Center Little Theater.

It is a production of the Theatre of the Nevertheless, George Washington's completely student-run theater program. According to Staples, the group's president, the school has the only such theater program in the area.

Students are involved in everything: choosing the show, obtaining the rights, casting, directing, set building and costuming. Actors rehearse five times a week for three hours a day.

"The students do it all!" said Staples.

The Theatre of the Nevertheless was named by the students because no matter the trials they faced -- broken sets, sick actors, flubbed lines -- the show always went on. The group is Staples' vision come to fruition.

When Staples entered the ninth grade, his lifelong involvement in, and love of, theater prompted him to seek out GW's theater club. What he found was a group where "kids weren't really taking it seriously."

He wanted more. With basic help from faculty sponsor Azareen Mullins, Staples and his peers took a casual club to "a group of professional kids who love what they do and dedicate their time to create a professional-quality show."

"The great thing is that it is open to anyone that wants to come and join what I call the theater family," said Staples who plans to continue his theatrical education at New York's Pace University.

The Theatre of the Nevertheless is completely voluntary. Theater isn't a classroom elective, so students receive no educational credit.

The troupe is run by a board of directors, which is elected by and composed entirely of students. Members vote on everything and take formal applications from students who wish to propose or direct shows.

Staples proposed "How to Succeed in Business" after he fell in love with the soundtrack. The show celebrated its 50th anniversary last year with a revival on Broadway that included Daniel Radcliffe and John Larroquette. With the resurgence in popularity, Staples felt this was the perfect time to bring the show to Charleston.

After deciding on the show, the company was faced with some big decisions. Where should performances by held? Should costumes be made or rented? Should the set be built from scratch?

Ultimately, the students chose to hold the performances at the Civic Center Little Theater, rent the costumes and build the set. All of this cost more money than an average after-school club has lying around, so they turned to fundraising.

In addition to traditional fundraisers like car washes and ad sales in the program, Staples said the troupe's biggest contributions came from sponsors, especially Brooks Run Mining Company. He credited the company's sponsorship with allowing the troupe to stage elaborate productions and rent professional, Broadway-quality costumes from Florida.

With finances and a venue secured, the students took on the task of building the set. Refusing help from parents, they assembled and built the show's twenty-some set changes in the school auditorium. They began construction in November 2012 and finished just last week.

The students will concede to some parental help transporting and reassembling the set at the Little Theater, but that is where parental involvement begins and ends. The adults in the audience need do nothing but sit back and enjoy the show.


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