In schools across Eastern Idaho there are drama and music directors and coaches making a difference in the lives of our young people.
Something remarkable happened last weekend at Snake River High School. It was a reunion performance honoring a long time theater director.
Students involved in the Snake River theater department going back more than ten years came together to perform the concert version of Les Miserables. This was the last high school production for director Laurie Grayson, who is retiring from directing. She directed more than 25 plays at the high school going back to 1989. There’s one thing she’s found the most rewarding.
“The kids- working with the students,” Grayson said. “It’s been an awesome experience to work with them.”
There’s no doubt Mrs. Grayson has impacted lives as a director. Chad Ruger played the role of Jean Valjean in 2004. He came back for the reunion concert.
“I sang Jingle Bells for the audition for the Wizard of Oz and she took a risk and cast me as the Lion,” Ruger said. “And she helped me learn that people liked me for who I really was. It had a huge impact on the rest of my life and still does to this day.”
Laura Campbell VanOrden returned too. Laurie Grayson helped her change her outlook.
“She definitely opened my eyes to theater as a whole and not just music so now music means so much more to me because of the theater side of it,” VanOrden said.
Doug VanOrden found a home at the theater department too.
“Mrs. Grayson with the music program and all the other programs at the school, music and band, they help give everyone a place where they belong,” VanOrden said.
Other original cast members look back fondly at their time with Mrs. Grayson. Tyrione Evans played the role of Fantine.
“It gave us a place to belong so it really impacted me,” Evans said. “It gave me a group of friends I hadn’t had previously and allowed me to express myself with music.”
Former student Lucy Griffiths said, “In my personal life she was the one who got me learning that I had this kind of side to me I guess.”
“I’m just so glad I had the opportunity to have this kind of experience in my life. It’s been a really good, fulfilling part of my experience,” Grayson concluded.
The concert also marked the final performance for long time community orchestra director, Linnea Hammond.