Clinton School Auditorium to host musical

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published July 19, 2015 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: William Harvey

Among the students appearing in the upcoming production of Mutt-i-grees Musical Extravaganza: The Dog Days of Summer 2015 at Clinton High School are, front row, from left, Lilyann Barnes, Eva Barnes and Jeremyah Green; and back row, Joseph Strawn, Levi Thomas, Keegan Campbell, Alyssa McKnight, Garison Robbins and Jaiden Green.

CLINTON — The Clinton School Auditorium is going to the dogs — and cats and monkeys and tigers — even to the unicorns.

At least that’s how it may seem Monday and Tuesday night when students and adults present the Mutt-i-grees Musical Extravaganza: The Dog Days of Summer 2015.

Doors will open at 6 p.m., and the show will begin at 7. There is no admission charge, and the public is invited.

The two-act musical is under the direction of Linda Sullins, who retired two years ago as the drama teacher at Clinton High School and is now teaching the Mutt-i-grees curriculum. Sullins said the curriculum focuses on social and emotional well-being and works to instill in students respect for themselves, for others, for animals and for the environment.

“The Mutt-i-grees curriculum is being taught in at least 40 states and more than 1,300 schools,” said Sullins, who noted that she also worked with the South Side Bee Branch School District last year. She said the Mutt-i-grees curriculum is a collaboration between the Yale 21st Century School, the North Shore Animal League in New York, the Cesar Milan Foundation and Pet Savers.

“I retired for a year and had to come back to do this,” Sullins said, smiling.

Earlier this summer, a Mutts Camp was offered to students in the Clinton, South Side Bee Branch and Shirley school districts. The first week of camp was for students in grades seven through 12, with the second week for third- through sixth-graders.

“We went to the Van Buren County and Fairfield Bay shelters to clean kennels and litter boxes and to bathe and walk the dogs,” Sullins said. “We also took both groups to the Clinton Nursing Home and made suncatchers and sand art with the residents. We toured the South Fork Nature Trail and Indian Rock Trail in Fairfield Bay. We took both groups to the Rave [movie theater] and then Playtime Pizza in Little Rock.

“Van Buren County was the first county in the nation to have all three schools teaching Mutt-i-grees, and all have Mutts Clubs for seventh through 12th grades. I used my older students as tutors and mentors for the younger students at South Side Bee Branch. I will work solely at Clinton this year and hope to do the same [there].

“As you can see, there are limitless opportunities for giving and learning, and that’s why I’m passionate about what I’m doing.”

Funding for this summer’s Mutt-i-grees musical at the Clinton School Auditorium is through a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant written by Shelly Hink and Glenda Stagg, representatives of the Clinton School District’s school-based mental-health department.

Hink said the $20,000 grant funded not only the staff for the musical but also the purchase of costumes and props, as well as snacks for the students involved.

A cast of more than 50 will appear in the musical, presenting a variety of songs such as “Hound Dog,” “Who Let the Dogs Out?” “Doggie in the Window,” “We are Siamese,” “Cruella De Vil,” “Puppy Love,” “Hakuna Matata” and “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat.”

Sullins said the musical will feature the animal-themed songs, making the connection of what Mutt-i-grees is all about.

“Our slogan is Rescue, Nurture, Adopt,” Sullins said of the program. “I work with prekindergarten through 12th-grade [students] using PowerPoint lessons, local animal shelters, nursing homes and the community to instill in these students respect for themselves, for others, for animals and [for] the environment.”

Caleb Pryor, 19, who is a graduate of Clinton High School and is now a sophomore at Southern Arkansas University Tech in Camden studying film and video, has created all of the promotional materials for the musical. He has also created an animated video that appears on a screen onstage during the musical. Caleb also performs in the show.

The cast includes Juliana Parish, Abby Robbins, Chase Blanton, Josh Pryor, Alyssa McKnight, Eva Barnes, Lilyann Barnes, Kashleigh Roberson, Brandon Trujillo, Garison Robbins, Joseph Strawn, Keegan Campbell, Levi Thomas, Jaiden Green, Callie Shaver, Gwen Shaver, Joseph Strawn, Jake Trogden, Shayla Ross and Jaycie Housley.

Dancers include Abby Tharp, Reese McDonald and Megan Wells.

Appearing as the Sports Boys are Rhett Horton, Bradyn Nelson, Jacob Lewis, Terrance Kempson, Kainnan Duncan, Larry Swan, Jacob Green, Jeremyah Green, Carsyn Ingram, Kyzer Housley, Zaydon Harbison, Kaydon Galeazzi and Zac Vance.

Members of the stage and makeup crew include Tori Bradford, Anna Strawn, Madeline Stagg and Dane Campbell.

Adults appearing in the musical include Kathy Anthony, Debbie Pryor, Kirk Pryor, Tonia Robbins and Amy Blanton.

Helping with props and stagecraft are Jaycie Housley, Simone Tutus, Stormie Heiser, Austin Sowell, Jessica Smith, Helen Nguyen, Chase Cooley, Melissa Duckett, Esvin Vicente, Richard Hall, Dylan Tumblesom, David Mendoza and Steven Hosington.

Garrett Robbins is the sound technician and also performs in the musical. He is a Clinton High School graduate and will be a junior at Harding University in Searcy in the fall, majoring in psychology with minors in Bible and counseling.

There will be a brief intermission between acts. Cookies and bottled water will be available for sale in the lobby.

Following the final song of the program, “Who Let the Dogs Out?” the audience will be introduced to a variety of rescue animals and their owners.

“Remember to adopt; don’t shop,” Sullins said, adding that the Mutt-i-grees program works with local animal shelters throughout the county. “We also encourage responsible pet ownership and hope all pet owners will spay and neuter [their pets] to control our animal population.”

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