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Armstrong High School Celebrates First Full Musical Theater Production in Three Decades

Standing before a rousing standing ovation, Armstrong High School and Richmond Community High School students brought the house down during the second and final night of their collaborative production of the musical “Once on this Island.”

The two-night run marked the first time in 30 years that Armstrong has produced a full musical. Armstrong’s auditorium was filled with students, families, and community leaders supporting the student actors, actresses, crew and musicians.

“Once on this Island” follows the story Ti Moune, a peasant girl, who rescues a wealthy boy from the other side of the island. Jasmine Richardson, the lead actress and a self-described “shy person” wowed the crowd with her beautiful voice and acting talent.

“Playing a character allows me to be able to break out of my shell,” said Jasmine. “Jasmine is shy, Ti Moune is not."

The play selection was actually the second choice of the students and staff, who originally had their eyes on producing “The Wiz”. But after listening to the soundtrack and watching a clip from the Broadway play, the production team fell in love with the music and visuals of “Once on this Island.”

Led by a team of Armstrong staff members, including the show’s producer and theater teacher Julianne Kramer and history teacher Graham Sturm, over 30 students from Armstrong and Community were selected to produce and star in the play. Students and staff worked side-by-side throughout the entire production; spending countless hours designing and building sets, making costumes, practicing lines and rehearsing dance numbers.

The production came alive through Armstrong’s after-school program "ACE" (Armstrong Center for EmpowerMeant). Funded by a three-year, 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, ACE provides opportunities for students to explore their passion through different enrichment opportunities. The ACE program was specifically written to include theater arts and has offered theater and stage makeup as an enrichment course for the past two and a half years. Putting on a full production play was one of the program goals – a goal that was met with flying colors.

"This would not have been possible without the commitment of RPS students, the dedication of RPS staff, and the vision of RPS administrators,” said Mr. Sturm. “We are grateful to the community partners and outside funding that allowed this to be a possibility. We look forward to continued support as we bring the arts back to Armstrong. Our journey did not end on closing night, it has only just begun."