About a year ago, Concordia Lutheran High School’s drama director, Chris Murphy, had a vision to give students the opportunity to be involved in a drama production at an earlier age, and to be an intricate part of a production beyond being merely a support to the high school shows. That dream came to fruition in the form of our first citywide middle school musical, “Annie, Jr.” So, the call went out for guys and girls in grades 6-8 to be part of the show. Recalls Murphy, “We invited students to audition particularly from our Lutheran schools, but also students who attended Concordia [High School’s] summer drama camp, and others who heard about the show.” Auditions were held last September, and practices began mid-September on Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings. “Annie, Jr.” was performed on March 17 and March 18, 2017 at Concordia Elementary.The cast of “Annie, Jr.” was made entirely of middle school students from 12 different schools around Fort Wayne, with 9 of the 12 being Lutheran Schools: Central, Concordia Elementary, Emanuel-St. Michael, Holy Cross, Lutheran South Unity, St. Paul's, St. Peters, Suburban Bethlehem, and Woodburn Lutheran. “We have a lot of talent in the area, and this [production] was a great chance to showcase that talent.” says Murphy. First the students became castmates, and then they became friends. “They really enjoyed each other and were making great efforts to find ways to keep in touch with each other after the show was over,” observed Murphy.
The collaboration of schools did not stop with the students. Murphy, an 8th grade teacher at Emanuel-St. Michael, called upon Concordia Elementary’s 5th grade teacher, Angie Owen, to be the assistant director. Owen also designed and built the set of “Annie, Jr.” as well as organized the light and sound crew for the production. Choreography was done by fellow Concordia Elementary teacher, Erin Mickelini and Lutheran South Unity music teacher, Natalie Reynolds, worked with the singing.Murphy is already looking at shows for next year. “It really has been an awesome experience and I would really encourage kids in next year's 6th-8th grades to consider auditioning and telling their friends about the opportunity as well!”