Kelly Grayum, Liberty Bell High School theater and humanities teacher, has become a familiar face at The Merc Playhouse. He is known in the theater community as the director of high school students in a variety of shows—shorts and one-acts, classical theater, as well as musicals. This year Kelly brought his sold-out audiences a musical adaptation of Twelfth Night, a modern twist on the popular Shakespearean comedy.
Kelly has been the theater teacher and director since 2016, when he and Danbert Nobacon began a collaboration that has lasted through these past 6 years. This popular class includes students who have spent much of their youth in productions at The Merc Playhouse or The Methow Valley Theater as well as newcomers to theater. The class encounters a variety of learning opportunities both on stage and backstage. The challenges often involve actors singing and/or dancing for the first time, running the sound and light board, and creating props, stage pieces, “the back wall” design, and of course the programs and advertising posters. This year the cast and crew experimented with a live band and headset microphones. To add to his repertoire of all things theatrical, Kelly directed the show and then during its run, he operated the sound board.
Kelly encourages and supports the arts in school. Liberty Bell’s theater program provides students opportunities to shine outside of academics and athletics. Kelly says he has coached soccer and taught English in past years, so he is experienced in organizing teens to work together. He believes that approaching the world of theater has given students more opportunities to learn about trust in a project-based learning environment. The nature of theater lends itself to vulnerability, and Kelly welcomes students to the experiences encountered when working closely in a group. He mentioned that this past school year, about 1/6 of the student body was involved in The LBHS Drama Company’s productions,
hoping that the freshmen in his classes will return in the coming years.
The Liberty Bell High School Drama Company enjoys a partnership with The Merc Playhouse. The value of this partnership is that The Merc provides rehearsal and performance space for the school’s productions each year. Missi Smith has provided choreography for LBHS Drama Company since 2016 when the partnership began. The Merc also provides technical expertise, guidance in rehearsal scheduling, free advertising for the show, as well as assistance in costuming, hair and make-up backstage, and any other assistance that may be needed during the run of the show.
We asked Kelly a few questions about his experiences as a director and teacher of budding actors:
What’s the funniest thing to happen in LBHS Drama Company?
The romances that happen, students asking each other to prom or homecoming during rehearsal.
What have you learned?
Everything. Each year presents new challenges. It began with learning from Danbert, and this year it was learning how to run a sound board.
How has The Merc connection influenced LBHS Drama Company over the years?
LBHS Drama Company rented The Merc for all their shows until 2018 when Missi Smith, Executive Director (until recently) choreographed Chicago and the partnership started. Now we annually present a musical in partnership, which allows for more rehearsal time in the space where the actors will be performing and more time to build sets and work on the other aspects of putting on a show. There is also more support from the community.
The Merc Playhouse loves our partnership with LBHS Drama Company, led by Director Kelly Grayum. We hope it lasts a long time!