The Lejeune High School (LHS) Theatre Guild is finally back on its home stage. After months of displacement due to fire and Hurricane Florence, the troop of players is prepared to finally take the stage in its refurbished auditorium at Lejeune High School. For its May 3 and 4 spring production, the guild is tackling Simon Levy’s adaption of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby.”
For the players and their director, Jonathan Conner, the homecoming is a welcome relief. The students were initially displaced due to Hurricane Florence in September. The storm took a toll on the high school as it did with so many homes and other structures in the area.
“We’re still having to jigsaw some things back together,” said Conner, a theater teacher at LHS. “We came back (from summer break) and immediately got hit by the hurricane.”
The storm heavily damaged the school’s auditorium. Water damage was a chief concern. As soon as practices for the guild’s fall production could start in the auditorium, a fire broke out at the school. Water from the sprinkler system caused extensive damage to not only the space, but also the necessary tools for the theater program.
“We came back (after the hurricane) Nov. 1 and then ‘bam’,” Conner said of the fire. “Everything we’d moved back in was ruined. Our electrical equipment got it the worst.”
The lighting grid as well as sound equipment was unsalvageable, Conner said. Water also caused damage to basic structural elements such as carpeting, the stage and seating.
“The fall show was a challenge, but Lejeune really came together,” Connor said. “Community centers and some other local spaces opened their doors to us.”
Now things are back to normal for the guild. The green light is finally in reach. The production of “Gatsby” features both newcomers to the stage and more seasoned thespians ready to show off their acting chops.
“It’s a mixed bag,” Conner said. “They run all ages.”
Senior Matthew Howard will play the role of Jay Gatsby. He’ll be stepping into a role that’s been played by the likes of Robert Redford and Leonardo DiCaprio. For Howard, however, he’s more focused on living up to the performances of former Lejeune actors who helped show him the ropes.
“It’s some big shoes to fill. Still, with Mr. Conner’s direction, I feel good about it,” Howard said. “I want to put a full 110 percent into it while still playing the general idea of Gatsby.”
Other performers include senior Mia Bucson as Miss Michaelis, sophomore Joseph Saucedo as Meyer Wolfsheim, freshman Sophia Dibella as Myrtle Wilson and Caleb Pagin as Nick Carraway.
The performance is slated for 7 p.m. May 3 and 3 p.m. May 4 at the LHS auditorium.
“For some freshmen this will be their first time on stage,” Conner said. “It’s our first performance in the new space ever. We’re happy to be here.”
The show is open to all authorized patrons and their guests but is not recommended for younger audiences due to violence, language and mature content. Conner directs, with Heather Costello serving as assistant director.