In an auditorium full of over 60 cast members, the noise level increases every moment. Excited laughter and nervous conversations are taking place in the midst of costume fittings, set building and musical rehearsals. But with a rhythmic clap of her hands, Drama Director, Tonya Hall Bowyer, instantly grabs the attention of the entire room and a silence falls over the crowd. And with this, rehearsal is ready to begin and Bowyer begins the instructions for the night’s rehearsal session.
Bowyer is the newly-hired Director of Drama for Radford High School and her enthusiasm and passion for theatre, and teaching children the magic it can create in their lives, is already keeping the Radford High School drama program quite active as they continue to perform a variety of consecutive plays. In early November, the theater program competed in the Virginia High School League One Act Theater Competition, and ended up finishing third. According to Bowyer, the one-act play competition was a valuable experience for her department.
“We had a very big cast for the competition,” Bowyer said. “They told us we were very brave for coming up with so many characters, and ended up giving us some great feedback.”
The play Radford performed was a comedy titled, “All I Really Needed to Know I Learned by Being in a Bad Play.” Immediately after the competition, the department began rehearsals for another one act play called, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
As part of her plan to involve the community in the theatre program, Bowyer asked students from the four public schools in Radford to audition for the show. She was thrilled to have 74 kids and parents show up.
After “The Best Christmas Pageant” is complete, auditions will take place for the musical, “The Wizard of Oz.” Bowyer, voiced her excitement for her first major production in charge at Radford.
“The school as a whole is focused on musicals because of how successful the music department is. There wasn’t a musical last year, and people were really disappointed because of it. I think there will be a great deal of excitement surrounding “The Wizard of Oz.”
As Bowyer continues to build the theater program, she hopes to gain a higher level of commitment from her students.
“I need to teach them responsibility. They haven’t been made to consider drama as a priority. I call ourselves a drama “team” to emphasize the importance of attendance and commitment. You wouldn’t tell your soccer coach you can’t come to practice unless you have a major reason. It is a team, and a partnership. If you’re not there, other people will suffer,” she said.
In order to build interest in the school’s theater program, Bowyer also hopes to expand theater classes at Radford High School and Dalton Intermediate. Currently there is only one theater class taught at Radford, and Bowyer hopes to have a second level added next year. She would like to add a level each year, along with a technical theater class as well.
While Bowyer hopes to expand the base of students interested in performing, she has already sung the praises of her current core of actors. Since she realized the talent that exists at Radford, she has also began filling out the paperwork to have the school become a member of the International Thespian Society, which would provide theater students with many additional scholarship opportunities.
She said, “I think we have some really talented kids. We already have some incredibly strong actors, most of which are underclassmen. There is some real raw talent here, and great potential to build.”
In order to further parental involvement, Bowyer also hopes to develop a booster club to help parents contribute with activities such as selling tickets, and designing the playbills. Up to this point, Bowyer seems to have a strong sense of approval and support from the parents.
As the mother of three children who are performing in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” Julie Weltin said of Bowyer, “Tonya is doing a great job. She’s very flexible and very enthusiastic. I think she is working really well with the kids.”
Performance dates for “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” are December 8 and 9 at 2 p.m. at Radford High School. Ticket prices are $3 for general admission and $1 for students. Reservations can be made at http://www.bobcatdrama.weebly.com and those with reservations will receive priority seating.