It’s that time of year: high school football season is over, but basketball season hasn’t started yet. That means it is time for the high school musical. When I joined the newspaper in fall 2008, one of my first projects was previewing Marion High School’s production of “Grease.” It was an outstanding show, and since then the MHS musicals have never failed to impress.
Obviously, the cast members deserve a lot of credit for the quality of shows they put on. A good musical doesn’t just happen. But the entire community deserves credit, too. Marion is the only community of its size I’ve seen with such a devotion to performing arts — not just high school musicals, but all kinds of performances.
It starts with facilities. That 2008 production of “Grease” was one of the first events in USD 408 Performing Arts Center. It is such an outstanding venue. Before I returned to Kansas, I was working in a town in Idaho that had built a brand-new 1,200-seat auditorium, one that was bigger and nicer than the main auditorium at the nearby Idaho State University. While USD 408 Performing Arts Center isn’t as large as either of those auditoriums, it is certainly nicer and better designed. USD 408 Board of Education deserves a lot of credit for proposing building a new auditorium, and voters deserve credit for approving it.
The construction of the performing arts center provided an opportunity to do something special with the auditorium in the city building. Now a banquet hall with a stage and balcony, it provides an option for performances that aren’t ideal for the performing arts center, and organizers have already found good uses for it, such as the Celtic dinner with music and dancing earlier this year.
But the best facilities don’t matter if nobody cares. And this is where Marion thrives. People volunteer to help stage performances. Community arts events are organized entirely by volunteers.
And of course, audiences show up, which is perhaps the most important way a community can support the arts — not because of the money, but because it shows the community supports the arts, that the community cares about the arts. And this weekend provides another opportunity for Marion to show it cares.
— ADAM STEWART