The Exchange Club honored Jeri Johnston as an Unsung Hero this morning for her work as creator of the Artists of Christian Talent (ACT) program at Lake Highlands Methodist Church. More than 2,500 students have participated in the Broadway-style musicals, which host opening night for their 40th annual production Friday, February 13th.
“In 1976, Jeri wanted to establish an outlet for kids around Lake Highlands to share their God-given talents while building community, specifically Christian community,” said Exchange Club President Greg Duval. “The idea was that any and all kids that wanted to be onstage or work in tech would be included in a role. The first show was Godspell.”
“Even though the ACT productions have always been staged at LHUMC,” continued Duval, “it is not a ministry for only LHUMC members. Young people can begin participating in 7th grade and typically return every year until graduation. The ACT organization affords kids the chance to build self-confidence, team work and discipline. Short devotionals are as much a staple of rehearsals as script reads, blocking and ‘let’s try that again.’”
On hand to surprise Jeri, in addition to husband and club member Bob, were long time ACT volunteers Paula Davis, Larry Engel and Sabrina Hancock and LHUMC Pastor Jill Jackson-Sears.
This year, ACT is staging Disney’s breakout hit “High School Musical.” As the curtain goes up, winter break is over at East High, and the Jocks, Brainiacs, Thespians and Skater Dudes are starting the new year. Team captain Troy (LH’s Grayson Orr) discovers that brainy Gabriella (Amanda Fugate), a girl he met on a ski trip, has just enrolled. Sharpay (Mary Lea Phillips) and her brother Ryan (Carson Brown), the drama department studs, are jealous when the others get callbacks for the high school musical, led by Ms. Darbus (Fiona Maselunas). Troy’s friend, Chad (Hayden Campbell), Gabriella’s friend, Taylor (Beth Erschen), Coach Bolton (Collin Pittman) and 60 other students round out the cast and crew. The show is directed by Lindsay Holland, who starred in ACT productions of Guys and Dolls (Miss Adelaide), Oklahoma! (Ado Annie) and The Music Man (Zaneeta Shinn) before graduating from LHHS in 2002.
You can see the show Feb. 13, 19, 20 or 21 at 7:30 p.m. or Sunday, Feb. 15 for a 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets are $10 each and available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations Jeri, and break a leg kids!