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story.lead_photo.caption Director Melissa Newton works with Jeremy Creek and Anabeth Icehower on Texas High School Tiger Theatre's production of the musical "Bright Star." Photo by THS student Braylen Garren courtesy of Tiger Times

Texas High School's Tiger Theatre Company will perform "Bright Star," a musical written by Steve Martin, this weekend at John Thomas Theatre.

"Bright Star" tells a tale of love and redemption set against the backdrop of the American South in the 1920s and 1940s.

Theater Director Melissa Newton said being able to direct this musical is an opportunity she does not take for granted, as it's something she's wanted to do for a long time.

"For the 70th Tony Awards, Bright Star received five nominations, but few people remember the show because that was the night Hamilton won most of the musical theatre awards shutting out Steve Martin's brilliant bluegrass musical," Newton said.

She recalled watching the Tony awards and enjoying the Hamilton musical number.

"But the one performance that stayed with me was 'If You Knew My Story' from Bright Star," she said. "It was storytelling at its finest. Several years later, I sat in the audience of a high school production of Bright Star, inspired and entertained. This production is a dream realized because at that moment I hoped to be able to direct this musical one day."

Performing their second in-person play and first musical of the school year, Newton said her students have had to prepare through some unorthodox measures, most notably having to perform with masks on.

"We've had our moments where it's been more stressful than normal, just because of dealing with performing in masks and really having to figure out how the mics work with the masks," she said. "We actually have hired a professional to come in on the soundboard and EQ it, so it sounds good with the masks. That's a very specific skill set, and that has really helped."

This will be the second play THS theatre students will perform with masks on, and Newton said there are some unforeseen benefits that could come from it in the future.

"The upside is they really had to work on their projection and articulation and diction, so they can really be heard through the masks," she said. "So, when the masks finally come off, we're going to be even better performers. They've also had to learn to use their body language a lot more to show emotion because you can't see the bottom half of their face. To convey how they feel, you really have to do that non-verbally as much as possible."

Unlike most shows, Newton said this one includes students from all kinds of different groups around THS — not just theater students.

"It's the one show we do that has people coming that participate from a lot of different organizations," she said "We have a number that features percussionists from the Tiger Band. We have three dance numbers that feature the Highsteppers. We have students from all across different programs — cheerleaders, publications, other band members."

The show will also feature local musicians who will do two featured live Bluegrass numbers.

Performances will be at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the John Thomas Theatre, 3941 Summerhill Road.

Tiger Theatre Company will also offer a Live Stream at on Saturday at 7 p.m.

(Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students can be purchased online at Attendees must wear masks and social distance within the facility. For more information, contact 903-794-3891 ext. 2408.)

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