Michael Jenkins (center) with the cast and crew of 911 Gnomes

Three Lake Highlands High students will perform in New York City this summer as part of the new Rave Theater Festival. The play in which they are acting, 911 Gnomes: A Christmas Emergency, is one of 20 diverse new shows chosen to participate.

Junior Tanner Roach and sophomores EmmaMerie Smith and Ainsley Haas play characters at the North Pole facing a holiday crisis. What will Santa do when all his elves have the flu? Why, call for help from friendly gnomes, of course.

The play is produced by Michael Jenkins, best-known for his work as president and managing director of the Dallas Summer Musicals for more than 20 years. He now leads Dallas-based Starlight Entertainment. Crystal Griffith, two-time director of musicals for A.C.T. (Artists of Christian Talent) at Lake Highlands United Methodist Church, among other credits, serves as director. Texan Shellie O’Neal wrote the play, and it’s the only show from Texas selected for the festival.

Griffith directed all 3 students in A.C.T. performances, and parents of all three are bursting with pride.

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“EmmaMerie starting performing in pre-school as part of church performances,” dad Jeff says, “and everybody has always loved her stage presence and how she lights up a stage.”

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Her first role, Jeff recalled, was that of a flamingo in The Little Mermaid Junior at Creative Arts Camp. She was 8. She hopes to pursue a career in musical theater and perform on Broadway, he said.

Ainsley, likewise, began performing in church. She sings in the church choir, plays the cello, dances and performs with the show choir at school. Her first role was that of Cookson the Pirate in Breitling Youth Theater’s Peter Pan.

“When she performs in any way,” says mom, Jessica, “she makes us extremely proud parents with a full heart.”

The girls have been rehearsing locally with the cast this summer, but they head to The Big Apple Aug. 12. Tanner, who hopes the festival will open doors in her future career as an actress, says working together has added to the fun.

“I know this sounds cheesy, but teamwork is honestly the way to go. No matter what, having the support of your peers and the directors is key.”

The curtain goes up on opening night Aug. 14 and the festival runs til Aug. 18 at the Clemente Centre’s Teatro Latea. Tickets may be purchased online here.

Jamonte Gentry, Irvin Horn and Ainsley Haas in 911 Gnomes

EmmaMerie Smith and Rachel Carlyle in 911 Gnomes