Community School of the Arts’ ‘Footloose’ puts 43 students on stage

Community School of the Arts’ ‘Footloose’ puts 43 students on stage

It’s bad enough to leave your home, your friends and your life in Chicago for a small farming town in the middle of nowhere.

Ren, the central character of the musical “Footloose,” is expecting a difficult adjustment.

“But he’s not prepared for the rigorous local edicts, including a ban on dancing instituted by the local preacher, who is determined to exercise control over the town’s youth,” director Cody Walls describes the storyline of the upcoming Community School of the Arts production. And when the reverend’s rebellious daughter sets her sights on Ren, the plot obviously thickens.

“We are thrilled to share this project with our community,” says Walls, who is also CSA director of theater. “This was an ambitious project for CSA — probably the biggest, definitely the most expensive, project we’ve ever undertaken. From hiring a professional carpenter, renting microphones, to hiring some of the best musicians in our area, we pulled out all the stops to make this show happen!”

The show also has a huge cast — 43 youngsters from grades seven through 12.

“Students auditioned in early December for the production,” Walls explains. “We do our best to create drama lessons and incorporate unique learning opportunities into our production process, so it’s basically a class, too. We strongly believe that the best way to learn acting techniques is not reading a book or sitting through a lecture, but learning the pedagogy of acting while producing a show.

“We have an incredible cast of actors for this,” he enthuses. “Truly, casting this one was the most difficult because they are all so talented.”

Walls says Brooks Harrison, a high school senior from Greenwood playing Ren, “is such a delight to watch on stage.”

“He isn’t afraid to make choices as an actor, which is always fun to work with as a director,” Walls says. “He brings so much heart to the character. The chemistry and relationship he has developed with the other characters is beautiful, moving, and, at times, heartbreaking.”

Harrison says he fell in love with theater when he was 11 and appeared in a production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

“This show means a lot to not just me but to everyone involved,” Harrison says. “We have all worked so hard to create this beautiful and touching story, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. The biggest thing that I have learned about theater and myself during this process is to not give up on your self. All the time you spend working will always be worth it.

“I’ve learned countless times that if you mess up, you have to keep going. It’s just how live theater is! I’ve also learned how to be more confident through my character and how to look beyond just the words on the page but the story the words are painting.”

“It’s easy to get stuck on the surface with ‘This is a town full of Southerners, and a city kid comes to town and causes trouble,’” Walls muses. “However, these actors take it to a much deeper level. They aren’t afraid to take risks and to explore these characters at their core. Not to mention that the vocals of Rusty (Hadley Gilmore), Wendy Jo (Mylea Holmes), and Urleen (Ellie Caruthers) are incredible! I get chills every time they begin singing ‘Holding out for a Hero.’ They’re all just incredible actors and even better humans.

“‘Footloose’ is a classic that is relatable to every generation,” Walls concludes. “This is a tale of tenacity, bravery, love, independence, and community. My hope is that this production will spark a light of inspiration in you, to make you want to take care of those around you and to fight for your beliefs like Ren fought for his.”


Community School of the Arts:


WHEN — 7 p.m. March 10; 2 & 7 p.m. March 11

WHERE — ArcBest Performing Arts Center in Fort Smith

COST — $15-$22

INFO — 434-2020 or

Categories: Family Friendly