Cairo High School theater program sees growth, set to host ‘Beauty and the Beast’

The play is set for Friday and Saturday night at 7 p.m., and Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.
Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 6:17 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 20, 2023 at 6:39 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Cairo High School’s theater department is seeing rapid growth.

Starting April 21, they will put on “Beauty and the Beast.” It’s just their second play since the COVID-19 pandemic. Austin Harrell is the theater director. She says the students are coming back after the pandemic. The department had only six kids for a time, now the department is 39 strong.

“We hope you will be our guest this weekend. ln 2020, there was a complete shutdown of everything. The stage lights went dark. For people that are extroverts, the stage is very much a safe place where they can release that pent-up energy,” Harrell said.

Ellis Hendrix will play the Beast. He started his drama career in elementary school because his siblings were it. Today, he’s the president of Cairo High School Drama Club and has a huge role to play.

“This week, we’ve been here from 2:45 in the afternoon to 8 every night working on this show,” Hendrix said.

Ellis Hendrix has been in theater since elementary school and is the current president of their...
Ellis Hendrix has been in theater since elementary school and is the current president of their drama club.(WALB)

He says he’s seen the growth in the program. They’ve already sold more tickets online for “Beauty and the Beast,” than they sold for “In the Little Wood” in 2022.

“This is my first on-stage role. I’m really coming into my own with a talent that I didn’t know I had. I ended up just falling in love with the whole program and everybody as a whole,” Payton Josey, a drama club member, said.

This is Josey’s first play ever. He’s playing Lumière. He says the club has allowed him to get out of his shell as he has ADHD.

“You make bonds with people. It’s just great. It’s just like a family. When I found out that I got Gaston I was already into the role. Throughout the school day, I’m saying my lines or singing a song, getting into character during the day before rehearsals,” Ronnie Gordon, a drama club member, said.

“It’s the biggest role I’ve ever had. I’ve watched the movie 100 times ever since I got cast. Just to study the character, figure her out,” said Ella Singletary, who’s playing the part of Belle, said.

Ellis Hendrix, left, is playing Beast. Ella Singletary is playing Belle.
Ellis Hendrix, left, is playing Beast. Ella Singletary is playing Belle.(WALB)

“We get to interact a lot. I throw a dress at her face. It’s a lot of fun. I’m really excited,” Jenna-Marie Melvin, who’s playing Madame (the Wardrobe), said.

It’s not just the actors that play a role. It took a whole cast to build the set, choreograph the dances, and make the costumes.

Career, Technical and Agriculture Education or CTAE played a big role in making the set. Construction teacher Yancy Burkes says his students learned important life skills through the process.

“The construction industry is needing help really bad. All the CTAE industries are. Electrical, plumbing, welding, all of them. They’ve done a bunch, they’ve learned a lot,” Burkes said.

He said most kids have to be taught everything they do in that class from design to measuring and cutting wood. Joshua Moore is the Cario High music director. Many students have natural talent it’s his job to get it out of them. We can’t forget about the stage crew.

“Painting sets and building sets is my favorite thing to do. As much as I would love to be an actor, it ain’t for me,” Raven Johnson, a CTAE student, said.

The club is getting so large, so doing more than just big productions is important.

They do a one-set competition piece in the fall and a Christmas variety show in December. They also compete individually in a regional literary competition. The drama club has plans to create a summer program too.

“There’s always something that’s going on. Pop-up performances in the community or being a part of different community events,” Joshua Moore said.

This show is special to them because it’s the second one post-pandemic. Also because they also won a national contest in 2022 that made them eligible for a free Disney show.

The play is set for Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.