School Snapshots: Windsor Charter Academy expanding performing arts programs |

School Snapshots: Windsor Charter Academy expanding performing arts programs

Emily Wenger

Alie Fraser, an 11th-grader at Windsor Charter Academy Early College High School, smiled at a rehearsal for "High School Musical," spreading her arms wide as she sang.

She's always been shy, she said, but theater is helping her get out of her comfort zone.

"It's definitely pushed me," she said, "but in a good way."

The production will be the first for the early college high school at Windsor Charter Academy, which opened for the 2015-2016 school year.

Fraser's first role was in "Once Upon a Mattress" as an eighth-grader, and she's grateful to Robert Lighthall, the music teacher at Windsor Charter Academy, for agreeing to direct a play at the high school in addition to the one he organizes each year in the middle school.

Since Lighthall's arrival at the school three years ago, he has worked to build the school's performing arts. Adding the musical was his most recent step in providing as many opportunities as he can for students.

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He teaches music classes as well as high school drama and filmmaking. He is also organizing the school's first solo and ensemble festival. That show will be March 31. The public is welcome to attend.

Although music was the focus of his study in college, Lighthall said theater has also taught him valuable life lessons, like how to put himself in other people's shoes and be more open-minded. He wants to pass those lessons on to as many students as possible.

He's directed middle school musicals — one each year — since his arrival at the school. Next year, he hopes to add a non-musical high school play.

As he led the cast of "High School Musical" through his classroom last week, they smiled and chatted before joining other characters in song.

Watching students grow throughout rehearsal processes for music and theater shows makes the additional time it takes Lighthall to run the shows worth the effort.

Theater is a valuable experience for students, Fraser said, because it can teach them social skills and build character traits like dedication and commitment.

Fraser, who will play Gabriella in "High School Musical," one of the lead roles, wants to continue playing music and singing after school. She'll carry the lessons she's learned from Lighthall with her into other aspects of her life, she said.

"I think students need an opportunity to express themselves in a way they haven't formerly," said Lighthall. "And I think theater's the perfect place for that."

Upcoming Windsor Charter Academy performing arts shows

» “High School Musical” — Windsor Charter Academy high school students will perform “High School Musical” 7 p.m. March 9 and 10 at the Windsor Charter Academy elementary school, 680 Academy Ct., and a matinee will be held at 2 p.m. March 10 at the elementary school. The musical will be the first performed by Windsor Charter Academy high school students.

» Solo and Ensemble Festival — Windsor Charter Academy choir students will show their skills at this festival, which will be from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. March 31 at 680 Academy Ct.

» “Star Stars” — Windsor Charter Academy middle school students will present “Star Stars,” a “Star Wars” parody play, at 6:30 p.m. May 3-4, at 680 Academy Ct.

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