In commemoration of the Ann Richards School’s 10th anniversary, the ARS Foundation, fine arts department, and administration have joined forces to put on ‘The Governor and Her Girls’, ARS’s first musical. It’s been in the works for more than a year, but will finally be on the stage June 1-2 at no cost.
‘The Governor and her Girls’ tells the story of Governor Ann Richards’ life and the conception the Ann Richards School as part of her legacy. Isabella Thomas (10), Adelyne Towne (9), and Eleanor Jeansonne (9) each portray Richards throughout the musical. Principal Jeanne Goka, who originally suggested the idea of a musical, was inspired by her former years as high school teacher when she ran school musical productions. “It was such a great uniter for the community.
It brought in all your arts. Everybody, since all their friends were involved in it, would come. It was a lot of work but it was worth it,” Mrs. Goka said.
First came the script, song lyrics, and score thanks to Janet Adderley, who runs the Adderley School for Performing Arts in Austin and is a friend of the Ann Richards Foundation. She worked closely with Mrs. Goka and choir teacher Mrs. Millicent Jardine during the fall semester to adapt the lyrics of famous Broadway songs to fit the story of Ann Richards. Atlanta Adderley, Janet Adderley’s daughter, worked with the cast on choreography during the beginning of the school year. Starting in May, the ARS high school concert band and orchestra have been rehearsing the music, and the art department has created advertisements for the musical. Despite the fine arts teachers working on performances and competitions in addition to the musical, Mrs. Goka recognizes that,“just like all the ARS teachers, they stepped up, because they know that we do it for the girls.”
After a busy contest season and Lip Sync, theater teacher Ms. Marissa Castanon began staging with the cast in May. Ms. Castanon, Ms. Jardine, and the cast have spent hours after school and on Saturdays to prepare and rehearse for the production. In the more recent weeks they have been able to rehearse in the McCallum High School theater, where the musical will be put on.
Mrs. Goka believes that the location of the musical serves a purpose of saying, “‘Why do we have to have to go to McCallum?’ We have to go to McCallum because we don’t have a theater that can perform a musical. We have a cafetorium, which is not really a stage. We have no real lights or sound connections. So we had to beg around many schools to let us use their theater…The next time we do this we’ll have our own theater if you get out and vote for the bond.”
The production of ‘The Governor and her Girls’ has been a learning experiencing for everyone involved. “At first I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is gonna work…’” Thomas said, “but now we’ve practiced a lot, we’ve put a lot of effort into it and we’ve really grown as a cast.” As a teacher, Ms. Castanon accredited the musical as a new opportunity to work on an important project alongside the other members of the fine art department. “I learned that we work better together than expected. Everyone is able to contribute in their own way with their own expertise,” Ms. Castanon said.
Despite the logistics challenges like location and schedules, Mrs. Goka hopes that the musical can be produced every five years so everyone who attends ARS has a chance to participate. The musical is not only informative of Ann Richards, but a showcase of the ARS community. In anticipation for opening night Mrs. Goka said, “I want people who come to say, ‘What a school.’”