BRAD ROBICHAUX — Growth can come on the stage, too

Published 12:08 am Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Not every great performance is given in a gym or on a field.

Of course sports foster important qualities in the students that play them, but those qualities can be fostered by other student activities, too. You might not hear as much about those other activities, but that is something that locally focused newspapers can redress quite effectively.

The Port Arthur News featured in the weekend edition a preview to the latest theatrical production coming out of Memorial High School. “Dreamgirls” will open Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. at the Memorial auditorium.

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The show stars Memorial students Erisha Jones, Christina Jackson and Jael Moody as Lorrell, Effie and Deena, a musical trio with big dreams. Others featured include Musiqa Tate as Michelle, Jacoby Berry as C.C., Taylor Getwood as Jimmy Early, Ja’Qualin Jones as Curtis Taylor and Zechary Queen as Marty.

Henrietta Haynes, the theatre arts instructor at Memorial, says the show is a chance for her student actors to grow just as the characters grow through the trials in the plot.

“I have this saying, ‘the seed looks nothing like what it will become,’” Haynes said. “When the actors come in, they are small trees but when they leave they will be great oaks.”

Student theatre, and sometimes any kind of theater outside of the elaborate productions of Broadway, can seem humble compared to the big budget, computer-generated films with green-screened backgrounds that transform into alien vistas.

Despite the scale of production involved, stage theater is not a simple matter. A backdrop painted by the stage crew is no green-screened vista, nor does it always try to be. It still takes work — days and days of it — from everyone involved, including the actors. Especially in the case of school theater productions, a whole lot of work is done by the students themselves to bring the show to life.

At that level it takes imagination, gumption, planning, creative and critical thinking, dedication and a heck of a lot of courage to take a thin budget and turn it into a proper theatrical experience, let alone walk out in front of a watching crowd and perform.

These qualities and skills are learned in spades on the football field or in the basketball gym, but those places aren’t the only places to learn them. Plenty of activities on the high school level, from debate teams to dancing to band to academic competition, also foster great qualities in students.

Theater is absolutely no different. Humble it may be, but easy it is not. It certainly wasn’t when I did it in high school, and I don’t have any reason to believe it still isn’t today.

So check out what Memorial High School can do in the limelight at 7 p.m. Feb. 1, 7 p.m. Feb. 8 and at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 9. It might amaze you what these folks are capable of. Purchase tickets at or call Haynes at 409-984-4079.

Brad Robichaux is a reporter at The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at