PENDLETON — For the past two days, Pendleton Heights High School freshman Parker Smith has climbed the wall and danced his way across the ceiling over the stage of the auditorium for the spring musical, "Mary Poppins."

Drama teacher Jacqueline Brown, who first started teaching at Pendleton Heights in 1998, said the stunt takes high school theater to next level.

“We’ve never done anything to this extent with the walking. We’ve used fly technology for 'Peter Pan,' but we’ve never walked anyone like this before. That’s pretty intense,” she said. “We’ll fly Mary Poppins out of the chimney.”

But it’s not only the over-the-top tricks that make the Pendleton Players’ production special, Brown said. Theater classes gives the 110-member cast and crew real-life skills, including construction, leadership and organizational skills that can be used personally, and for some, professionally long after they leave the school.

“Some kids aren’t going on to college, and it gives them a skill,” Brown said. “We’re not teaching theater; we’re teaching life skills. I had a girl who didn’t know how to open a paint can.”

Brown recalled her father’s less-than-enthusiastic reaction when she said she planned to pursue theater in college.

“I had a dad who was really upset his kid was put in a theater class,” she said.

Senior Brady Alumbaugh, 18, knew when he saw Pendleton Heights’ production of "Peter Pan" when he was in the second grade at East Elementary School that he would want to participate in the theater program when he got to high school.

“I saw that, and that’s what made me want to enter theater,” said Brady, who plans to major in technical theater production next year when he enters Purdue University. “A lot of people don’t realize it, but you can change the way people think just by what you do onstage.”

Alumbaugh, who serves as student assistant and lighting designer, said over his four years studying theater at the high school, he has gained problem-solving and teamwork skills.

“I think it helps us learn to manage time well between homework and sports and other extracurriculars,” he said. “It boosts your confidence just being down here around other people. You might have to do something you don’t know how to do.”

Stage manager Sarah Theohares, 17, got a later start in theater as a junior. Although she plans to major in political science next year when she enters Indiana University, Theohares said she plans to continue with theater as an extracurricular activity.

“I learned kind of how to sew and to do some woodworking,” the senior said. “I think we feel more accomplished, in general, because we have a finished product.”

Final performance

The final performance of Pendleton Players’ production of "Mary Poppins" takes place at 1:30 p.m. today at Pendleton Heights High School’s Loran G. Skinner Auditorium, 1 Arabian Drirve, Pendleton. Tickets are $10 or $7 for those younger than 18 and older than 65.

Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 640-4883.

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