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Lennard ESE Students: Be Our Guest

January 16, 2018

Lennard High School students with special needs are showing that their disabilities don’t limit the possibilities of what they can do. They’re ready to prove that on stage, performing the musical play “Beauty and the Beast.”

For months, the high schoolers in the Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Visual Arts class have been rehearsing.  Teacher Holly Talley said it’s the class’s biggest and most difficult production ever. It’s a feat that some have questioned if the play could be pulled off.

“I had people say, ‘There’s no way.  I don’t see how these kids can do this.’ But that’s the last thing you say to me,” joked Talley.

The work began last spring by ordering scripts, holding auditions, and familiarizing students with the songs.

Talley said her favorite part of being involved in the production, which can be a very slow process, is seeing students’ growth.

“We have kids when they first come in here don’t say very much at all. They speak very few words in a class period, and then they get up at the end of the year and they perform a part. Probably 20 percent of the kids in the class could read their lines. The other kids, I would give them their lines and help them with how to say it, and we’d practice. Now, they all have their lines memorized, and they know what to say, and it’s amazing,” Talley said.

Student Mikayla Conley is playing the leading role of the beauty, Belle, and has been going over her lines with her mom at home, as well as in class.

“I’ve been doing a lot of work,” said Conley.

In addition to their lines, the students must remember song lyrics, staging and choreography. Talley has seen what this accomplishment means to the students.

“It’s about giving them confidence to be all that they can be. They can do anything. They really can. They can do anything, it’s just about the people around them believing that they can do it and being willing to work with them,” said Talley.

“I’m just being myself,” said Freshman Kyle Williams, who is playing the leading role of the Beast.

Two Lennard High drama students, Alex and Reece Gardner, also have a role in the play and a role in enriching the experience for the ESE classmates.

“Our Gaston and our Mrs. Potts this year are from, they’re regular Drama Ed kids. They’re wonderful. They’re brother and sister. They help to raise the bar on stage. Those kids see them, and they see what they do, and that gets them excited. ‘I can do that too!’  It really helps to push this,” said Talley.

The school pays the licensing fees for the production through Music Theater International. The class doesn’t have a budget for costumes or props and relies on students, teachers and administrators to play a part in supporting the project with $25 sponsorships. It means so much to Talley. “We could not do this without other people. It’s not just me. It’s a team. The school paid the rights for it, so that’s about $1,100. We do a sponsorship program for our costumes. If anyone sponsors, or if a class sponsors, then we make sure they get to see it, because they had a direct hand in bringing this thing to life, which is very exciting,” said Talley.

The class will have two showings of the performance on January 19 and January 26 at 1:30 pm in the Lennard High Auditorium. While sponsors are guaranteed a seat, the public is invited to attend. Seating is limited to 500 people per performance. Anyone interested in attending should email Holly Talley at holly.talley@sdhc.k12.fl.us.

The Beast is ready. “Very excited for them to see it. It’s going to be really fun,” said Williams.

To learn more about events happening at Lennard High School, follow the school on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LennardHigh

For more information about Lennard High School: http://lennard.mysdhc.org/

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