When the award-winning Broadway show Hamilton announced last summer it was coming to Knoxville, Vine Middle Magnet School dance teacher Jana Cartee jumped on the chance to win tickets for her students.
The Tennessee Theatre Youth Arts Alliance provides tickets for students to “attend world-class performances in one of the most well-known theaters in the region,” according to their website.
Cartee applied for tickets on the last day applications were open and was awarded 50 tickets for chorus, dance, and technical theater students.
“It was amazing,” she said. “Getting to see some of the kids that it was their first time getting to see it, and the first time for some of them to see any live theatrical performance, it was really great.”
Sixth-grader Hope Harlow attended the Saturday afternoon performance with her classmates. She has been a long-time fan of Hamilton.
“It was really fun because not a lot of people get that chance to go see Hamilton,” Harlow said. “They did really good, and Thomas Jefferson was hilarious.”
Now, the Vine theater program is preparing for a show of its own. Theater lovers can see The Little Mermaid, Jr. in May in their auditorium.
“It’s really cool seeing the kids that have been able to do theater in elementary school learning and watching them grow,” Cartee said. “Some of the kids that are in the musical are also in my technical theater class, so they are getting to make their costumes for the show.”
The show follows the major plot of Disney’s The Little Mermaid with a more condensed runtime. The group began working on stage after weeks of rehearsing the music and dialogue in the chorus room.
“It’s a really good show with what we’ve done so far,” Harlow said. “We do a really good job.”
Two students from Beaumont Magnet Academy are sharing the stage this month, playing the role of Tiny Tim in The Christmas Carol at the Clarence Brown Theater.
These young actors, second grader Penny Peterson and third grader Golden Littlejohn, are no strangers to performing in front of crowds.
“I’ve done a pre-show in my dad’s play, The Little Prince,” Peterson said. “Before the show started, I played in the sand with the character toys.”
Her mother, Amelia, directed this year’s musical at the Clarence Brown Theater, and her father, Joshua, is the Founding Artistic Director for the River & Rail Theatre Company.
Littlejohn has performed in school plays at Beaumont. Most recently, the school presented a show called The Greatest Snowman, a spin-off to the 2017 musical film The Greatest Showman. The year before, he was in the ensemble for The Great Big Holiday Bake Off.
“While I was doing it I was a little nervous,” Littlejohn said of his audition, set up by Beaumont theater teacher Amanda Taylor. “When I’m nervous and singing or doing a monologue, I just go faster.”
Both students were offered the role and began rehearsing in October. The pair take turns starring in the 28 performances that run from November 23 through December 18.
“We have to stay up late for some of them. We have to miss school for some of them,” Peterson said. “My favorite scene I do is the Cratchit scene because that’s Tiny Tim, and that’s the main character I play.”
Outside of performing, the students are active in their school. Littlejohn participated in the school spelling bee and is a Beaumont Ambassador.
“The first person I escorted around the school was the Superintendent,” he said with a proud smile.
Both are thankful for the unique opportunities they have on and off the stage.
“It’s been a really good experience of learning, but also a fun theater experience that not a lot of kids get to do,” Littlejohn said.
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