BULLHEAD CITY – “I haven’t met a group of kids who eat, sleep, and breathe drama,” like these kids, said Joshua Michel, Fine Arts Director and Mathematics Teacher for 6th-8th grades at Desert Star Academy. Desert Star Academy Middle School kicks off its performing arts season with “Beauty and the Beast” on Nov 10-11, 6:30 pm, from Mohave High School’s stage, 2251 Hwy 95, Bullhead City. The season includes “Elf Jr.” (December), “Frozen” (April), “Finding Nemo” (June), and “The Sound of Music” (July). “It’s crazy how dedicated they are in getting the production going,” added Michel.

“We started rehearsing (‘Beauty and the Beast’)” in June, said Michel. “We rehearsed in class and held after-school rehearsals twice a week,” to start. “Normally, we wait until a month into rehearsals before getting started on set pieces, as well props,” added Michel. This story showcases the redemptive power of consistent love and acceptance. He noted that the staging and lighting will have just 24-30 hours as he and Assistant Director Ashley Osborn “plan out the lighting design” at the auditorium.

Speaking of 24-hour productions, in December, “‘Elf Jr.’ is our community production. Kids are given the script at 5 pm, then spend the night at the school rehearsing,” said Michel. “The next night, they perform it for the community.” This cast is limited to ages 10-18. The cast will audition and be selected about three weeks prior, but “they won’t get the script until the first week of December,” said Michel. The story addresses the concept of being unable to use one’s talents due to being in the wrong place.

“This will be our third year doing 24-hour musicals,” said Michel. “It’s very challenging, but a lot of fun. These kids gain a sense of pride knowing they were able to do this in such a short amount of time.”

In the spring of 2024, Desert Star Academy’s thespians stage “Frozen,” an adventure to thaw hearts and the Kingdom of Arendelle, which lent aspects of Norway and its people to the script, setting, and even accents.

Turning to other productions, “we have two summer shows as part of the season,” said Michel. “Finding Nemo” will be another open-to-the community, 24-hour production. Main character Nemo doesn’t consider his shortened fin a disability; he’s an anthropomorphized fish, after all. It doesn’t stop him from plotting an escape from a dentist’s tank while, unknown to him, family friends have organized a search party and have been encountering their own travails.

“‘The Sound of Music’ is also a community show, open to ages 10-to-retired,” said Michel. “With no age limit on how old you can be, it gives everyone in the community an opportunity to be a part of it.” A classic, “The Sound of Music” is based on a true story, set in Austria during World War II and features an escape from the Nazis.

While most productions welcome the community into the cast, costumes, props, lighting and other aspects, “Beauty and the Beast” and “Frozen” are “for Desert Star Academy scholars,” said Michel.

According to a June press release, “Production Sponsors will receive exclusive privileges, such as Recognition in the Theater, Program, and Social Media, a Full Page Ad, 10 Tickets to the Performance and four production show T-Shirts.”

In addition to production sponsorships, “ads in the program are available,” said Michel. A full-page ad is $300, and includes two tickets to any show. Half-page is $250, and one-quarter-page is $200. Michel is willing to help local businesses design their playbill ads, “it depends what they’re looking for,” he added. And, of course, please be considerate of deadlines for both the printer and Michel’s time. Most ads are expected to be ready-to-print and can be emailed to Michel at jmichel@desertstarteachers.org

The school also raised funds for the performing arts program at “Dinner With Belle,” a meet-and-greet with cast-in-costume that was held on Nov 3. In addition, the Desert Star Academy is considering “looking into season tickets, trying to gauge how community will respond,” said Michel. At the door, tickets are $7 adults, $3 for ages 18 and under. Reach out to Michel at 928-219-0578 or jmichel@desertstarteachers.org. Desert Star Academy Middle School is located at 5744 Hwy 95, Fort Mohave.

Juliette Cowall