Mrs. Ellen Holifield’s job as theatre teacher, Performing Arts Department chairperson, and theatre director means many long days. Just like a coach, she is busy many evenings and some weekends as she preps her cast for a show. She teaches Theatre I, Advanced Theatre, Musical Theatre Production, and Tech Theatre this semester. She is directly responsible for the production of the spring musical and the Deanery musical as well as the holiday theatre troupe, the Popcorn Players. But her hand is in every show that goes on a Providence stage.
It’s a job she has loved all of her 18 years here, starting right after she earned her bachelor’s degree in theatre arts from Murray State University. (She has since received her master’s in teaching from Spalding University.) Her Musical Theatre Production class, which she co-teachers with Mr. Ron Breedlove, just completed its run of Honk!, but she is already at work finalizing the cast for the spring musical, Freaky Friday. The show will start vocal rehearsals soon, and after Christmas Break, the cast will be hard at work to prepare for the March 8 Premiere Night.
A Q&A with Mrs. Holifield
Question: What do you enjoy most about the productions you oversee?
Answer: I enjoy the entire process of the production. Watching it begin from just a read-through of the script to the final product is always very enjoyable. Seeing the students embrace and develop characters and relationships within the show is great. I always start with a vision of what I think a show will be like, and directing it to come alive is very exciting.
Q: What do you like about teaching theatre?
A: I really enjoy sharing my passion with students. I enjoy working with students who may be new to theatre and taking a class for the first time — it is nice to see them appreciate it and realize that theatre can be fun. I especially enjoy working with the more experienced students, the ones who are a little older and have already discovered their love for the art form. It is fun to collaborate with them and help them grow into strong performers.
Q: Do you have a favorite subject?
A: I enjoy all of the classes I teach. The Musical Theatre Production class that we added a few years ago is fantastic!
Q: Now that you are a PHS parent and teacher, what does that add to the dynamic?
A: All three of my daughters have grown up in the Theatre and coming to Providence, so it is very comfortable for them. My oldest daughter, Mara, is a sophomore. I enjoy having her at school with me. Tessa is in seventh grade at St. Anthony and can’t wait to come to Providence. My youngest, Emma, is in fifth grade at St. Anthony.
Q: What are your goals for the Performing Arts Department as department chair?
A: I would like to see the performing arts continue to grow and strengthen. I would like for our students to continue to gain confidence and experience through the Theatre Program. I would like to continue to produce new works as well as rediscover some older ones. It is great for the students to experience a well-rounded repertoire of shows.
Q: What are you looking forward to with Freaky Friday?
A: Freaky Friday is a brand-new release, so it is very exciting to do something new and to be the first in the area to produce it. Freaky Friday has quite a few roles, which will feature many students. The music is fun and catchy, and the story has a great message. We’ve already auditioned, but I’m still in the process of casting. I can’t wait to get started!
Q: How has PHS Performing Arts grown during your tenure?
A: The performing arts have always thrived at Providence; that was one thing that drew me in. The dedication of our students has always been inspiring, and that has not changed. In my time at Providence, I have really seen the spaces evolve. When I started, the Little Theatre was in Room 209, and now we have an amazing [Ray Day] Little Theatre, where I am able to teach and our students can perform. Also, when I started, the spring musical was in the Koetter Gym, where we had to build a stage along with the scenery that went on it, then carpet, curtain and light the space in order to transform it into a theatre.
Now, we have an amazing facility, The Robinson Auditorium. It’s beautiful, and we are actually in the process of upgrading that. A new curtain was just installed, and now we are in the process of upgrading the lighting system as well. It should be done by our Christmas Spectacular (on Dec. 9). We are also working to upgrade the sound system and install marquee boards. It is so exciting to see the changes!
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: I love being a Providence Player!
Note: The Robinson Auditorium is receiving new theatre lighting technology in December to bring the facility up to date since it’s opening more than a decade ago. Upgrades include state-of-the-art energy efficient LED lights that will be less costly to run and easier to maintain. Providence Players will also enjoy being on stage under lights that produce much less heat.
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