Briesemeister Middle School theater is bringing out the inner thespian of its students thanks to a recent revitalization of the program.
From within their classroom, around 30 students could be heard throughout the halls as they loosened their tongues and chanted, “red leather, yellow leather,” to prepare for the upcoming school play “Murder in the Knife Room.”
“I like this class a lot because I can be myself and try different things,” eighth-grade Briesemeister Middle School student Alliyah Watson said, before leading the class on the warm-up.
Watson, 13, is one of the dozens that race to join the program every semester to get a chance at taking part in the class’ successful plays.
“The program has grown a lot,” Briesemeister Middle School theater instructor Tommie Jackson said. “We’ve started doing quite a few different things. We do three to four shows a year, and we compete in a one-act play contest in San Antonio against schools in Judson ISD as well as Schertz. Currently, we’re working on our fall murder mystery and prepping for our winter musical at the same time. We’re a very busy group.”
After the warmup, the students gathered in a circle with scripts in hand and began rehearsing, laughing amongst each other, as they became different characters.
“The first show of the year, I try to do something that’s ridiculous to get them out of their shell because there’s always new kids who are being thrown into top groups,” Jackson said. “Middle school’s quick — sixth grade you’re a beginner and by seventh grade, you got to be one of the top performers ready to go. So this gets them out of that shell so we can dive into harder shows. So I purposely chose something silly.”
Jackson joined the junior high team four years ago with the intent of breathing new life into the program.
“The goal has been growth since I got here,” Jackson said. “When I got hired here they were asking me how I could make the program grow. And that’s part of what got me the job because I outlined what I thought the five-year plan was. And somehow it worked out because we’ve gotten to the numbers that we talked about.”
To achieve his goal, Jackson sought the help of the brand name that most children love, he said.
“I tried to find things that the kids knew and connected with while also interspersing what they needed to know about theater,” Jackson said. “So connecting to common things like Disney, that is where you get them interested, and then you show them musicals by other people. And so I guess I found the interest that they had and then built from that.”
When performing, the theater group is more than just actors, with some students opting in to help build the sets rather than playing a part on the stage.
“We will have around 40 to 50 kids involved in our first performance, “Murder in the Knife Room,’” Jackson said. “When it comes to building and everything, it should be about that many. Those kids help with the building and painting and all of the sets and lights.”
“Murder in the Knife Room” is slated for Oct. 28, Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 performances at the middle school, Jackson said. For more information, visit the program’s Twitter page @torotheatre.