The Leaders Behind the Production of ‘Charlotte’s Web’

Four students manage and direct alongside Mrs. Gehrke in the ‘Charlotte’s Web’ production


Kylie Brennan, Reporter

If you were given the opportunity to manage or direct a student play, what would you do? Would you take it with great strides? Or maybe leading isn’t your thing. These four students did the former. Let’s take a minute to commend these students for the incredible work they are doing for this year’s production of “Charlotte’s Web” Nov. 17-19. 

Kennedy Lemaster – Student Director 

Kennedy LeMaster

This year’s student director is Kennedy Lemaster, a junior who always manages to lighten the mood in any given situation. She started out her career in theater when she was in seventh grade, getting more involved in her sophomore year. She prefers to be behind the scenes but thinks acting could be fun.

When asked if it was difficult to juggle her position along with school and other responsibilities, she stated, “I wouldn’t say juggling theater, work, high school, and college is a struggle. It’s just annoying. Sometimes I have to leave rehearsal early to go to work, and I wanna spend as much time there as I possibly can, but sometimes things get in the way.”

She loves to watch the show come to life as the weeks go on and make friends along the way. Kennedy helps the director, Mrs. Gehrke, with cast blocking on stage and making sure the production moves along smoothly. She makes sure the cast is there every rehearsal and that they utilize their time wisely.

Having such a responsibility seems like something that could take over your daily life, Kennedy shares how it affects hers by stating, “In my daily life, this process hasn’t affected my life, but it’s definitely changed my views on the people, I’ve made new friends, seen different sides of people, and it’s taught me a lot about myself too.”

She has been a stage manager for the past two years, however, this year she wanted to try to be student director so she can “see every aspect of the theater.”

Kennedy comments on what is needed of someone to be in the position she is in, “I know that I definitely need to be more authoritative, because right now, the cast sees me as someone who tells them what to do, and yes, I do that, but I need them to know that they need to listen to me for their own good and for the good of the production, and that I am a respectable person who wants to have fun as well.” Kennedy Lemaster, student director of “Charlotte’s Web,” is a fun filled, hard-working girl and does her job with passion.

Rhett Cunningham – Student Tech Director

Rhett Cunningham

In the production of Charlotte’s Web we have a student tech director. He is a senior and you may have seen him before during assemblies or maybe his name in the yearbook. Our student tech director is Rhett Cunningham, an easy to talk to and a charismatic leader. He started his career in theater at a young age acting and as he got older he moved into a more managing position. He wanted to start managing because he loves the way things move and look and has a passion for the good of the show.

He stated that sometimes it is hard to juggle this position with other responsibilities he may have, he said, “YES! It feels like a full time job at some points in the process, but the end product is so worth it.” He is excited to see the technical portions of the play come together with the acting for the finished product. Rhett makes the overall decisions, deciding designs for the final product that comes out on stage.

His main responsibilities are as stated, “Keeping everyone on track and, most importantly, on time. I also am responsible for leading groups of students to design successful work that fits well with the story we are telling, and that works in our given theater space.” Even though this position is time consuming, Rhett said that it does not affect his daily life. He knew that he wanted a big managing role, and worked with Mrs. Gehrke (director) to make this possible.

“Overall theater design knowledge, how to speak and truly work with people one on one and also in a group, and always leading projects with the good of the show in mind,” are attributes and skills that were needed in order to get into the position he is in now. And for the role, he continues to provide in the production. If you get the chance to speak to Rhett in person, you will feel a sense of ease around him. He is truly a leader.

Tessa Wilson – Stage Manager

Tessa Wilson

Tessa Wilson, a junior here at Liberty High School, is one of our two stage managers. Tessa is a caring, considerate person to talk to. She has been a part of theater since middle school, having loved theater at a young age before that.

Tessa wanted to start managing because, “being the stage manager there’s a new job every day. I might be helping set build a staircase one day and then the next I am helping the props crew buy fake spiders! There’s a new problem and a new ‘thing’ going on every rehearsal and I’m not stuck doing the same thing. I was the props crewhead for my first three productions and I grew bored of it. It felt like doing the same thing for every show. Find props, fill out spreadsheets, order stuff, done. With management, you could do something different everyday and every production.”

She is a part of other clubs and activities around the school including becoming co-caption of color guard and being in the school’s band. She said that being in these other activities can make it difficult to juggle everything from time to time. She said she definitely felt stressed at times, but that “it always works out and I always have a blast.”

Besides seeing the show finished, she loves being a part of the running crew and seeing the show come to life. Her main responsibilities is to be, “ kind of the messenger between crews and the overarching support of everyone. While Rhett and Kennedy are working side-by-side with Gehrke, I work more alongside the crews. Especially once the running crew starts, the stage manager can really make or break how smoothly the tech side of a production runs. The stage manager can decide who does what during the actual showing.”

Tessa’s daily life has been affected by these different positions, she works her schedule around rehearsals and is doing work for the theater. She started managing back her sophomore year and the following play she was assistant manager. She said that it set a fire in her heart and that she realized that she loved the job of stage manager. The few times I have talked with Tessa as stage manager has been nothing short of incredible. 

Rylee Shipes – Stage Manager

Rylee Shipes

A charming, very approachable junior, Rylee Shipes, is our second stage manager for Charlotte’s Web this year. She started getting into theater her freshman year and worked on a production in her sophomore year. She sees herself as someone who is hands-on, someone who has a high work ethic. She knows she is good enough to balance her responsibilities, so juggling those tasks doesn’t come as extremely hard for her. Besides seeing the show as a finished product, she said her favorite part of production is tech week.

She feels this because, “It’s my favorite week, everyone’s here everyday of the week but Sunday. We have tech Saturday so we get here super early in the morning and then we are here until super late. It’s like probably 12 hours or something. It’s a whole bunch of fun, you make a lot of memories, you make a lot of friends along the way and it’s a lot of fun.”

She makes sure that everything goes smoothly to take weight off of Gehrke’s shoulder. Tessa and Rylee check in on the crews and make sure everything is going according to plan, they are there to help in any way that they can. This position does not affect her daily life, the only change she really notices is that when she goes to rehearsals she gets into a mindset that now people are listening to her and she needs to make sure everyone is safe among other things. She is very excited in her new position, she is the type of person that you can send her where she is needed and she will do what she needs to do. When you are a manager, you have to be stern.

Rylee comments on this by saying, “Definitely being blunt and stern. You can’t be someone who is ‘Hey can you please put that down.’ and they are like ‘no’ and you can’t just be like ‘Oh well I tried.’ You have to be very consistent with what you are doing.” Rylee has a sense of humor like no other and truly does the job with an upbeat, zealous attitude that is contagious to the people around her.

When given the opportunity to lead groups of people, these four students took their positions with pride and are shining with leadership qualities. This year’s show is going to be incredible, not just because of the amazing cast or crew, but because of the people leading them.