ST. JOHN | Awards and accolades keep coming for the Lake Central Theatre Company as the thespian program prepares to expand to middle school students, according to one of its directors.
Awards the group has received include “superior” rankings for the International Film Festival in Lincoln, Neb., in 2013 and best in state in 2010 and 2012, Ray Palacz told the School Board recently.
Palacz, who took over direction of the school’s theater company a decade ago, said the competitions “provide feedback for students and directors to improve instruction in these areas (and) have a heavy emphasis on learning.”
“We’re right up there with the best schools in Indiana — Carmel, Jeffersonville and Penn High School,” he said.
Palacz is a technical theater instructor and technical director of musicals, the summer show and contest plays. Pam Neth is theater arts instructor and director of the musicals, freshman plays and summer shows.
The Lake Central Theatre Company presents five plays each season.
These include the fall play, a nonmusical play performed in early November and open to freshmen through seniors. Between 30 and 40 students participate each year.
The contest play is a one-act show that’s entered into the area’s regional conference each December and open to freshmen through seniors.
A spring musical is a full-length show with auditions held in November and December and performances in March. All high school students are eligible to audition, and these productions attract between 50 and 80 student participants.
Freshman plays are student-directed one-act productions with auditions for freshmen only typically held in March and performed in May.
The summer show is a community theater production that could be a comedy or a drama, Palacz said, with auditions in late May and performances in early July. Auditions are open to the entire community, he said.
Participation in the regional and state competition and the International Film Festival is also part of the learning experience for students, Palacz said.
The majority of students in theater don’t major in the arts, Palacz said.
“But our alumni said in a survey that Lake Central theater helps prepare them for life," he said.
Junior thespian troupes are now being organized at Kahler Middle School in Dyer and Grimmer Middle School in Schererville, he said. There is already a junior thespian group at Clark Middle School in St. John for several years.
“These programs will strengthen the connection between the middle schools and high school programs,” Palacz said.
In addition, the new theater being built at Lake Central High School will provide professional-caliber equipment and a 1,005-seat venue, he said.
“We’re looking forward to this,” he said. “It all helps set the bar higher for our students.”