On a recent Thursday night, an hour before curtain up at Flat Rock Playhouse, twenty-one Hillandale Elementary students learned their places on the Mainstage for the two songs they’d be singing in A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas.
It was opening night, and this was the students’ first – and last – chance to learn their cues.
“What happens when the music comes on?” quizzed Matthew Glover, Company Manager and Marketing Project Manager at the Playhouse. “We walk out,” chimed the students. “What do we do in total darkness?” Glover asked. “Stand still as a statue,” said Ryah M., a Hillandale 5th-grader.
For opening night only, Hillandale musical theater students were invited to join the full company of A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas in singing “White Christmas” and “Let There Be Peace On Earth” to close out the first and second acts, respectively.
Teachers Taylor Sanders and Lisa Gerber said the students had been practicing diligently at school since the beginning of November. “We rehearse on Mondays, but that’s it,” Sanders said. “This is their first and last dress rehearsal.” Gerber added, “Most of them have never been on a stage like this.”
That became clear when then the stage lights came on during dress rehearsal, and several students were taken aback by the brightness. “No squinting! Find a place in the audience to look at,” instructed Sanders. “And smile,” Gerber added.
Once the students had had a run at both songs, Glover took them to their seats at the back of the house, where they’d get to watch the numbers in which they weren’t participating. He, Sanders, and Gerber shared with students that they’d be singing on the stage of the State Theatre of North Carolina, where stars past and present have performed.
They also talked to the students about theatre etiquette, and answered any last-minute questions about the production. Fourth-grader Natalie H. raised her hand and asked, “Is this (show) going to be touching?” Glover said, “It can be, and you’re a part of that.”
When it came time to join the pros onstage, the Hillandale students didn’t miss a beat, and made their families, teachers, and Glover proud. “The students were absolute stars up on the Flat Rock Playhouse stage. They sang with great poise as young professionals,” Glover said after the performance. “Henderson County Public Schools should be beyond proud of Hillandale Elementary and their success in the arts.”
Prepared by Molly McGowan Gorsuch, HCPS Public Information Officer.