A new project at Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) aims to show what arts education is available in the area and how the creative types can pursue it.
The Patriots Players will be a group of 12 to 15 performers who will bring their show to area schools. It would be a 30- or 40-minute variety show, which includes breakdance, piano, magic tricks, dance, drama and more.
“We are looking for dancers, singers, artists, actors” and other performers, said Jane Leizer, the director and coordinator of the Patriot Players.
“When people think about continuing ed in the arts, they don’t think about a community college,” Leizer said. “They sure don’t think about PH,” which Leizer calls “sports heavy:” Its sports programs get a lot of attention, while the community doesn’t know much about its arts programs, she said.
Yet the area is ripe with creative endeavors, Leizer said. “Even with Martinsville having an 18 percent unemployment rate, we still have seven dance studios,” she added.
Local high schools are tops in performing arts, she said. Leizer cited the highly ranked band at Bassett High School and the “wonderful show choir at Magna Vista High School” as examples. The recent system-wide Arts Alive program had more than 700 performers, she added.
Many high school graduates pursue careers in the arts, Leizer said.
The Patriot Players would put on their show in area schools to inspire students to pursue the arts and to show what is available at PHCC, she said. In addition to performers, organizers are looking for stage crew, costumers, light technicians and other behind-the-scenes contributors.
“There are people in this area who would love” to be involved in shows, she said.
Members of the Patriot Players should be enrolled in at least one class at PHCC. Participation in Patriot Players may earn course credits eventually, Leizer said.
Also eventually, organizers hope the Patriot Players would qualify for scholarships to four-year universities, Leizer said.
Patriot Players’ board members are: Dan Spaugh, the theater director at PHCC; Bill Young, a Bassett resident who has judged three Miss America pageants; Byron Corcoran, who was the choir director at First United Methodist Church for many years; Devon Pendleton, a director of dance conventions across the country; Betty Joe Fulcher, who acts in community dramatic productions; Rebecca Crabtree, a longtime community volunteer, pianist and puppeteer; opera singer Deborah Burgess; PHCC Vice President Susan Shively; PHCC English professor Joyce Staples; PHCC Director of Public Relations Kris Landrum; and Miss Martinsville-Henry County Bronwyn Hairston, who will be the group’s spokeswoman.
“I’ve noticed, as I put this board together, how much they can share and come up with wonderful ideas,” Leizer said. She expects the group to be “very successful” to “go into the community, promote the arts and hopefully be role models.”
Leizer has been an adjunct faculty member at PHCC for years. Classes she has taught include fitness, aerobics, zumba and jazz. She was the cheer coach, and she also helps coordinate the Miss Franklin County and Miss Martinsville-Henry County Pageants.
Her role as coordinator and director of Patriot Players is a new paid faculty position, she said.
Auditions for Patriot Players will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Jan. 26, and 6-8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28.
Because many people who may be interested in the performing arts don’t know what is involved with taking auditions, a workshop in auditions will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Jan. 12, in the Walker Auditorium at PHCC.
The Patriot Players don’t have to stop with just performing at local schools. “We are hoping to take it beyond this,” Leizer said. “We’d love to take the Patriot Players to New York” City.