This year marks a change in leadership in Eminence Independent Schools’ theatre program. The revamped program’s first show, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, was performed last week on Thursday and Friday, and was met with sold out crowds and excellent community response.
Alethea Coffee, the family liaison for Eminence schools, leads the new program. Coffee says that she hopes the program can give “a voice to the voiceless,” in the school system.
The show’s lead character of Ariel the mermaid is played by Eminence junior Lily Anna Tillman, who said that she, “enjoys the chance to be a good role model,” for the younger children in the play. “I’ve always enjoyed when little kids look up to me. I enjoy that responsibility.”
Tillman, who is in her second leading role, said that The Little Mermaid is the most fun she’s had in any production.
“When you get into theatre, a lot of theaters can get very harsh. Girls are all prima donnas and it’s this crazy mess. Dramatic, competitive like crazy. And we’ve just really been able to become this family, all of us…That’s why I’ve really loved this experience.”
Coffee said that the program was birthed from her experience as family liaison for the school system.
“I work with homeless students. So, I wanted to give kids who didn’t traditionally have activities after school, or aren’t used to being told that they’re great singers, or [that] they’re beautiful, and give them a voice,” Coffee said. “And it has accomplished just that.”
Coffee laughed when talking about the amount of student support the production has received. “I hope that we continue to see growth. I’m not sure how much growth we can stand in the drama club.”
According to Coffee, there have been over 100 students involved in the current production.
“The stage tonight is amazing. We’re all the way out to the edge of the stage.” She said that students were involved in numerous aspects of the production, including acting, singing, set design and costuming. “Everything’s been student-done. The only real parent involvement we’ve had is to corral kids…I’ve been the woman behind the curtain, because I just keep pulling from different areas and different resources to get different kids involved.”
Keely Merryman, an Eminence junior who plays the character of Flounder, has taken to her role with vigor. “I’m not really oblivious, but I’m really happy in life. Kind of a scaredy cat. It’s easy for me to do.”
“It fits your personality,” Coffee interjected.
“And the squeaky voice helps,” Merryman laughed. In addition, she has taken to working with the little children who are in the production.
“She has such a personality that is typical of Flounder,” said Coffee of Merryman. “She has made friends with several of the little children who are in first or second grade, and they consider her their best friend. They’ll say, ‘Flounder is my best friend.’”
Coffee said that the drama club plans to continue working next year, and hopes that the community continues to support them.