It’s official — Leslie Decoteau has changed her mind.
She’d set her sights on law school after high school graduation, but now she’s looking at a career in business management and marketing.
Now, bear in mind that Decoteau is a junior at University High School, so all of this is subject to change. Then again, she’s a member of the Manship Theatre’s Student Advisory Board, which is staging a full-blown production on Tuesday, May 1, at the theater.
The students are its writers, directors, producers and performers. They are in charge of the marketing and tickets.
They make up the production company, Not Your Average Drama Kids, and The Melting Pot Project is their show.
This is where Decoteau learned about business management and marketing, where she not only was inspired but had to step into a leadership role to make the show a reality.
And in the end, she’s a step ahead of many of her peers, learning skills and techniques to which she probably wouldn’t be exposed until college.
But that’s the purpose of the Manship Theatre Student Advisory Board, providing high school students an opportunity to learn about theater production and management.
“The student advisory board was one of my missions when I came here,” Renee Chatelain said.
She’s the Manship Theatre’s executive director. She annually sends letters to all schools in the greater Baton Rouge area, requesting principals to recommend two students to serve on the advisory board based on their leadership abilities, academic performances and interest in the arts.
This includes all schools — public, private and parochial. Some schools respond; others don’t.
“But it’s open to all of them,” Chatelain said.
Participating schools in the 2011-12 school year are McKinley High School, Zachary High School, University High School, Baton Rouge Magnet High School, Belaire High School, St. Joseph’s Academy, Episcopal High School, the Dunham School and the Runnels School.
Board membership isn’t automatic from one year to the next. Students must receive repeat recommendations from their principals if they want to return.
“We’ve had many who have returned,” Chatelain said. “And they’re all such a joy to work with. They come together as a community here with a common interest in theater. There’s no competition among them — they’re all supportive of one another and of each other’s interests and passions.”
And these interests and passions have culminated into The Melting Pot Project, a variety show featuring actors, musicians and performers from each of the board’s represented schools.
“They chose the name of their company, Not Your Average Drama Kids,” Chatelain said. “I think this is great, because it creates a legacy for the students that will follow on the board. And they not only came up with the idea for the show, but it was also their idea that all the proceeds should go to a charity.”
The board chose the David Paul Learning Center as its beneficiary. The center’s objective is to reach children ages 7-18 living in the Melrose East community.
Decoteau has recruited University High’s jazz band and show choir for this performance.
“I’ve really had to step up into a leadership role in doing this,” Decoteau said. “I’ve had to keep in touch with the directors of the choir and jazz band and keep Miss Renee up-to-date. I’ve had to coordinate everything for their appearance in this show.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Vessel has had to approach the show in a different way. He’s a junior at Belaire High School. He has always aspired to a career in theater, and his involvement on the advisory board has enhanced that decision.
Especially his involvement with this production.
Vessel has acted in many of Belaire’s play productions, meaning that his involvement has always been on the stage. With The Melting Pot, he’ll be the show’s stage manager.
Yes, the person in charge of every aspect of the live production, making sure every person is where he or she is supposed to be at any given time.
This responsibility came as a surprise to Vessel, who originally was slated to be the assistant stage manager.
“The girl who was supposed to be the stage manager wasn’t going to be able to make the show, so I was moved up,” Vessel said.
Now he’s a little nervous, but that doesn’t mean he lacks confidence. He knows he can pull this off.
“I got a lot of help and advice from the Manship staff during rehearsal,” Vessel said. “They’ve been great.”
This stage managing opportunity has given Vessel another perspective of the theater. It’s experience he can add to his resumé for when he enters the theater world.
“I want to act, but I’m also interested in directing,” he said.
Both Decoteau and Vessel have already talked to their principals about another recommendation to the board. Both expect to be back in the 2012-13 school year.
For now, though, their focus is on the show, which will include skits, jazz music, monologues, vocal solos, dance, harps, Broadway numbers and poetry.
“It’s going to be a great show,” Decoteau said.
But even greater is the experience that she and her fellow board members will take away from this production.
Experience that can influence their futures.