This summer is the 10 year anniversary for Florida State College at Jacksonville’s high school Summer Musical Theater Experience (SMTE) program.
The program was originally started in 2006 by Beth Harvey, who is the current director of the Nathan H. Wilson Center for Arts, located at FSCJ’s South Campus.
SMTE was based on an earlier program called Duval County Summer High School Musical, which was part of the Duval County Public School System throughout the early 90s.
Harvey learned about the program while working in the business office at Theatre Jacksonville, and she began to volunteer alongside it. Douglas Anderson School of the Arts was one of the most prominent schools to contribute to the program. In the late 90s, Duval County Summer High School Musical lost its public funding. The program’s last show was hosted at Douglas Anderson.
In 2006, FSCJ’s college president of the time put out a challenge for ideas on how to use the Wilson Center during the summer. Fascinated with the hard work and dedication of the former high school actors she had worked with, Harvey pitched the idea. “I had always wanted to do something like this,” Harvey said. “The idea had been brewing in my head for a couple of years.”
Harvey’s mission in creating the program was to help engage high school students, and give them an opportunity to perform at a more advanced level than what they were used to. SMTE’s first play, titled “Guys and Dolls” was produced during Summer 2006.
“I always wanted to set up a program that would be based, developed and ran like a community theater, but strictly for high school students,” said Harvey.
Like Duval County Summer High School Musical, SMTE is open to all Duval county high school students. Students get to opportunity to work with both local and professional directors, professional choreographers and musicians. Not only is SMTE exclusively for high school students–it is also solely ran by students.
In order to audition for the group, students have to have completed the 7th grade by the time practice for the show starts. High school graduates may participate only if they have just graduated in the current year of the production in which they are auditioning for. Participants cannot have any type of professional or educational training outside of high school.
This summer, SMTE will be performing the world renowned classic “The Wizard of Oz.“ Former FSCJ graduates Amber Daniels and Kendall Messersmith will be choreographing the show.
“The Wizard of Oz” will be showing at the Wilson Center July 24, 25, 31 and August 1 at 7:30 p.m. Also, July 26 and August 2 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased over the phone at (904) 646-2222 or (904) 442-2929, or online with Instant Seat Selection at www.artistseriesjax.org