Banner Elk Elementary students

Theatre Arts program encourages arts in education through support for Banner Elk Elementary production of “Frozen”

The Lees-McRae Theatre Arts program’s advocacy for the arts goes beyond preparing the next generation of theatre professionals and performing for the community. By sharing resources with other theatre organizations, the department can foster a love of live performance throughout the community.

Banner Elk Elementary and Lees-McRae Theatre Arts continued their longstanding partnership in December 2021 with the elementary school's production of "Frozen." The annual collaboration is one way the college can live up to its motto of “In the Mountains, Of the Mountains, For the Mountains.”

“This has been a yearly tradition since before I started working at Lees-McRae,” said Director of Theatre Arts Josh Yoder. “Theatre is about community—it brings people together to share stories. We are thrilled to be able to share our resources with the young theatre artists at Banner Elk Elementary each year, helping them create and share the magic of theatre for their classmates, teachers, and families.”

Justin Carver, the principal of Banner Elk Elementary, said “Our partnership with the Lees-McRae theatre department is a game changer for our students. It allows Lees-McRae to aid a small school trying to put on productions to influence both the community and a life-long passion for theater arts with our students.”

With one of the largest costume collections in western North Carolina and a sizable inventory of props and set pieces, the college is well positioned to assist other local productions. This year, pieces designed for the fall show “In the Green” ended up being a perfect fit for the Banner Elk Elementary staging of “Frozen.” In particular, the door of Jutta’s cell became the door separating princesses Anna and Elsa, and a large window unit that played a pivotal role in the Lees-McRae show was altered to look like stained glass in the “Frozen” castle set.

Scott Koenig, the technical director for Theatre Arts, said that the elementary school was able to browse the costumes and sets to find anything that could work for their show. A few pieces received small modifications—two benches were fitted with headboards to become two beds, and a pair of silver gates came back gold and sporting the Arendelle crest. The ability to use and reuse set pieces extends their value long after the initial creation and allows Lees-McRae to spread the joy of theatre.

“Arts are important,” said Koenig. “There’s lots of empirical evidence that strong arts in schools improves academic outcomes for students, and there’s anecdotal evidence that it helps with social skills.”

As the relationship between Banner Elk Elementary and Lees-McRae continues to flourish, Yoder hopes to extend that benefit to other schools in the area.

“Outreach is important for any theatre organization, and it’s valuable for our students to see the impact that they can make in their community beyond the plays we produce,” he said.

(Photo credit: Kerri Ledford)

Read more about the Banner Elk Elementary production of “Frozen”

By Emily WebbJanuary 06, 2022