The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

August 29, 2012

Mike Pound: McAuley theater program focuses on teens

JOPLIN, Mo. — When I was in junior college, I was part of a traveling theater group and was required to sing AND dance at the same time.

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but I was not good. I was OK with the goofing around part of the traveling theater group, but I was lousy when it came to singing AND dancing. Actually, I was worse than lousy. I was unintentionally laughable. Being unintentionally laughable at something is much worse than being lousy.

The reason I was even in the traveling theater group in the first place was because the professor in charge of the group was a friend of mine and needed an extra body.

“You know I can’t sing or dance, don’t you?” I told him.

“Fake it,” the professor said.

So I did, and for the most part it was OK. The only time that I ever got nervous faking it in front of people was when I had to sing and dance in front of high school or college students. Singing and dancing in front of old people isn’t that hard. Most old people are nice and give you credit for just showing up. Singing and dancing in front of young people is different. It is scary. Young people mock you just for showing up. And if you’re not very good, well, you better be prepared for some serious mocking.

I thought about that Wednesday afternoon when I chatted with some young people who soon will be performing in front of other young people.

The young people were McAuley Catholic High School students in Lola Wade’s theater class. They are the newest members of Lola’s program called Leaders of the Pack.

Lola started the program in 1988, when she was teaching in Riverton, Kan. The students and Lola put together a 45- to 60-minute program featuring music, dancing and role playing that focuses on common teen problems. The group was so popular that for many years, the students traveled and performed across the United States.

When Lola came to McAuley, she brought Leaders of the Pack with her, but several years ago, when she lost her funding source, she had to disband the group. This year, thanks to a donation from McAuley graduate Tony Hulfeld and his parents, Keith and Izzy, Lola is reviving Leaders of the Pack.

The students are updating the program script written by Lola. What happens is that Lola writes the script and adds the music and the choreography, and the students take the script and make it — shall we say — less old.

Lola said Leaders of the Pack will deal with issues such as teen pregnancy, bullying, date abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, eating disorders, and peer pressure. The fact that the Leaders of the Pack message is delivered by teens for teens and is not presented in a heavy-handed way seems to make that message stronger, Lola said.

“We don’t judge and we don’t preach,” she said.

Soon, Lola’s students will begin rehearsing their new program. The first Leaders of the Pack performance will be a schoolwide event on Thursday, Oct. 4.

Lola’s students said they are nervous about performing in front of their friends. But something tells me that Lola knows what she’s doing. Something tells me that her students will be just fine. And something tells me that Leaders of the Pack will make a difference.

For information about scheduling a Leaders of the Pack performance, people may contact Lola at 417-624-9320 or send her an email at lwade@jacss.org.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at mpound@joplinglobe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.

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