BY SHIMANA BOSE–
The SHS drama department raised funds and honored veterans during the spring musical, South Pacific. South Pacific, which tells the story of a group of soldiers on an island in the south pacific during WWII, ran from May 19 to 21, the latter also being Armed Forces Day.
“A couple months ago I noticed that our spring musical, South Pacific, closed on Saturday May 21, and I also noticed that happened to be Armed Forces Day,” said Joe King, drama director. “I started brainstorming about how we could do something for veterans because the themes of South Pacific are very relevant to WWII, [and] I thought it would be natural connection for us to do something.”
The drama department is known for their intense, yet enlightening themes and subject matter, along with the ability to bring a discussion of the topics throughout the community.
“Whatever the theme of the musical, we try to tie into a social aspect of society,” King said. “When we did I Never Saw Another Butterfly, we did a Holocaust remembrance … we brought in Holocaust survivors and talked about it in discussion groups.”
South Pacific was no exception.
“I think it’s great to tie the theme of the musicals that we are doing … to our own community,” King said. “This was just another natural and easy way to do that.”
To raise money, the drama department worked on both a national and local level in collaboration with organizations devoted to supporting and honoring veterans. The national organization, Honor Flight, works to get aging veterans on a flight to Washington DC to experience their monuments and memorials.
“All the veterans’ expenses are paid, but it’s 500 dollars per veteran to fly there. They … go see the memorial, they are escorted around all day, and then they fly back, and a group of people greet them at the airport with flags and signs and banners,” King said. “Because a lot of the veterans … were not necessarily greeted fondly … we’re raising money for that.”
In addition, the production is also raising money and supplies for a local organization, Milwaukee Veterans Stand Down.
“Milwaukee Veterans Stand Down is an organization that helps homeless veterans in the Milwaukee area,” King said. “Once a month, the organization tries to get homeless veterans off the streets for a day, where they can get showers, dental appointments, suits and be given personal care items, like toothbrushes and razors and shaving cream. We’re also trying to get people to bring these personal care items.”
The department has been advertising both on Facebook and the SHS school website, urging people to bring donations and any care items.
The reaction from the community was overwhelmingly positive.
“People have been responding very positively to it,” King said.
The goal was to raise 500 dollars to send a veteran to Washington DC, but the production managed to raise 1,546.00 dollars.
Both students and veterans found the effort very admirable.
“I think it’s great that they’re doing so much, and that they raised that much money… to help these people who’ve served this country,” said Akshaya Kannan, junior.
“Being a veteran, this connection is really important to me,” said Maylan Thomas, technical director.
“It’s pretty awesome that we can do this on Armed Forces Day … everything aligned so we could do something to honor veterans,” Thomas said. “It makes me happy, I’ve done a lot of veteran advocacy throughout my career … [and] I think it’s awesome.”
Not only did the production manage to raise 1,546.00 dollars, but also honored all and any veterans in the audience at the pre-show on Saturday.
“We asked to take a pause and ask anyone in the audience who is a veteran to stand and be recognized,” King said.
The pre-show at the 2:00 pm performance was short, but conveyed a message of respect towards veterans throughout the community.
“There were … people walking down the aisle holding the flag, and everyone sang the national anthem,” Kannan said. “I thought it was nice; it was a way to salute everyone who served our country.”
“We are trying lots of different ways to show our respect and honor for the veterans who fought for freedoms … so that we in Shorewood have the benefit of being able to produce plays and musicals that sometimes push the envelope,” King said. “We only have these freedoms because people fought and died for them.”