Flying monkeys. Ruby slippers. Rainbows over a long yellow brick road.
It was a slew of hints drawn in chalk by Ashley Hall theater arts students in seventh and eighth grade for the entire School to see that revealed the March 2023 spring musical selection this September: The Wizard of Oz. Students were let in on the secret during class, then were tasked with sharing the exciting news with the student body by decorating the wall in the middle of campus with elements from the show.
“Our chalk wall is a collaborative space to share news,” says Performing Arts Chair and theater arts faculty member Aimee Phelan-Deconinck. “We wanted to build some anticipation around what the next school play will be, and I also wanted all our students to know that it wasn’t just decided. I wanted our oldest theater arts students to announce it in a big way.”
The original method for announcing this year’s performing arts production was only fitting for a show that is planned to be uniquely Ashley Hall. “We’ve imagined it for our time with our students,” says Phelan-Deconinck. “Obviously we’re going have points of reference, but, how do we make it original to Ashley Hall? How do we transform Davies Auditorium into the flats of the Kansas prairies? What I am most excited about is where this is going in terms of reimagining in terms of originality.”
We sat down with Phelan-Deconinck to hear more about how Ashley Hall will be transforming into Oz this spring.
How was TheWizard of Oz chosen to be this year’s spring musical?
APD: Looking at themes for Girls with the Will and specifically, looking at protagonists that are willful, Dorothy stood out. She can grow, yet she still feels there is purpose for her and she sees the potential in everyone. She speaks to goodwill. Not just my will or strong will, but community will.
What grades will be involved in the production?
APD: Grades 5-12 will all be involved, and we’ll audition during the Christmas Play auditions. Grades 5-8 will be auditioning in class and we will be doing an audition unit to help the girls find their unique skill set. An auditioning unit helps students understand that they don’t have to be afraid of an audition. They just have to be prepared. Then grades 9-12 will audition during the school day during flex periods.
How will the story be adapted for Ashley Hall?
APD: Davies Auditorium is a space that lends itself to huge amounts of creativity. It’s a beautiful space and neutral in the best sense. It’s a blank palette and that’s how we’re looking at it. I’ll be doing the set, and the conceptual side of things, and Loretta Haskell will serve as music director. I’m so excited to be collaborating with her. She’s immensely knowledgeable and passionate. She’s really nimble, and I feel like we’re really going be able to find this balancing point.
When it comes to the characters, we’re talking about all three divisions being very involved. Who is Dorothy at these ages? How does she interpret life? Dorothy’s not going to have to fit into this one mold. We will see her at different ages. I’m envisioning our show having three Dorothy’s, one from the Intermediate Program, one from Nautilus, and one from Upper School.
Do you see Dorothy as an Ashley Hall girl?
APD: Absolutely. She grows and she can grow because she can let other influences come in. That doesn’t take her off her place, but it’s a community will. She has no ill will towards anyone, even this person who tries to kill her. And then success happens; success beyond what she had imagined. What’s on the other side of the rainbow is just her with a bigger point of view. That’s PQV.
A cherished, longstanding Ashley Hall tradition, The Christmas Play assumed a digital format for its 2020 production in response to pandemic safety concerns. Against the backdrop of new technology, creative staging, and the need for the cast to socially distance, one thing remained clear: the love for this shared generational experience runs deep.
“This year we reimagined The Christmas Play in order to adhere to public health and safety protocols, and the spirit of this Ashley Hall tradition came to life in an entirely new way. Filmed outdoors on campus, the play allowed us to take full advantage of our cherished Senior Lawn as well as the Bear Cave, which served as the perfect backdrop for the Holy Tableaux.” —Head of School Jill Muti
Ask any alumna to name her favorite Ashley Hall memories, and The Christmas Play makes the list more often than not. Now in its 97th year, the annual performance is nearly as old as the School itself and draws together generations of graduates who relish memories of assuming roles of angels, shepherds, and jesters, reciting time-worn lines, and singing a repertoire that embodies the holiday season.
“The fact that you can reconnect so well with your Ashley Hall experience through watching the play makes it so special,” said Assistant Head of School and Upper School Director Anne Weston ’73, who treasures many fond memories of watching and performing in the play. “This year we worked hard to preserve the tradition of The Christmas Play in the face of challenging conditions.”
Historically, the logistics of The Christmas Play have adapted through the years to allow for location changes and staging demands, and the digital version represents the latest of these transformations. While the medium of delivery may change, it is reassuring to know the essence of this beloved tradition remains very much the same.
Another special Ashley Hall tradition is the sending of alumnae “telegrams.” Each year, alumnae cast members of The Christmas Play share warm wishes with members of the current cast. Filled with fun memories and loving support, these “telegrams” offer a glimpse into the special bond our alumnae have to their School and each other. Happy reading!
Ashley Hall is thrilled to introduce a NEW addition to its team sports and activities, The McBee Singers, an elite vocal dance team of polished young singers and dancers with a strong community presence. The McBee Singers will build an eclectic repertoire of dynamic musical performances of Pop, Broadway, and Jazz favorites, with a unique and creative twist!
This exhilarating team of singers and dancers will illuminate and elevate Ashley Hall’s campus, as well as the local community, through quality and meaningful performances. The McBee Singers will also compete in national show choir invitationals.
View a sneak peek below of the energy and excitement students will experience as a dance team member!
The McBee Singers has two separate divisions: Varsity for grades 7 to 12 and Junior Varsity for grades 5 and 6. Team members are selected through an audition process attached to a 4-day bootcamp, which provides interested students with a sample of The McBee Singers’ repertoire and excitement. Pre-registration is required.
The McBee Singers will be led by Performing Arts faculty member Kirk Pfeiffer in Lane Hall 201. A one-time costume and materials fee of $250 will be charged.
CACC Extension is a new robust after school theatre arts program that offers Ashley Hall students grades 2-12 the opportunity to further develop their talent and skills in the areas of dance (ballet, theatre jazz, tap), acting, and voice.
CACC Extension is conducted by the Cultural Arts Center of Charleston (CACC), the Resident Performing Arts Company at Ashley Hall, and will offer classes to Ashley Hall students, by grade level, throughout the week, beginning September 21. CACC Extension will be led by Performing Arts faculty member Kirk Pfeiffer in the Gordon Dance studio in Pardue Hall.
Junie B. Jones, The Musical Jr.! February 8 | 7:00 p.m. February 10 | 2:00 p.m.
Tickets: $10, adults | $5, students
Join the Intermediate Program theater ensemble for this delightful stage adaptation of four of Barbara Park’s best-selling books, brought to life in a fun-filled selection of songs and dances. Junie B. Jones, The Musical Jr.! will capture your heart just as the books captivated an entire generation of students.
Coming soon to Davies Auditorium! The Ashley Hall Theater Department presents Beehive: The 60’s Musical, chronicling the changing role of women as defined by a decade of remarkable transition. From bubble-gum sweet girl groups to gritty female solo artists, this musical retrospective features the sounds of the 1960s from women’s perspectives. Buy your tickets and support our rising stars!
Tickets: $10 for Adults $8 for Students
Friday, October 19 at 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, October 21 at 3:00 p.m.
The ability of dance to stir emotions and build connections was evident during this year’s first performance of The Caterpillar Thriller, an original story-in-dance featuring dancers from second through sixth grades. Written and staged by Lower School faculty member Stephanie Christensen, The Caterpillar Thriller presents a powerful message that “being odd’s not bad” and if we remain true to who we are, we will ultimately find others who are just like us.
Students, parents, faculty, and staff were enchanted by the heart-warming story of a little caterpillar’s journey to grow into her true self and discover her own place within the world. Gorgeous costumes and lively music created the perfect atmosphere for a captivating display of dance. An Ashley Hall favorite, The Caterpillar Thriller has been performed on campus on two previous occasions to capacity audiences. You do not want to miss this year’s memorable performance! Future showtimes are May 17 at 7:00pm and May 19 at 3:00pm in Davies Auditorium. Each performance is free, with RSVPs requested. Online RSVPs are now closed, so please arrive early to the performances to ensure your spot. To learn more about the Lower School, click on the button below.
Ashley Hall is a K-12 independent school for girls, with a co-ed preschool, committed to a talented and diverse student population. We consider for admission students of any race, color, religion, and national or ethnic origin.