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Sycamore, DeKalb students staging theater productions this weekend

The "Alice in Wonderland" cast goes through a microphone check on Wednesday night during rehearsal at DeKalb High School. The show starts this Friday.
The "Alice in Wonderland" cast goes through a microphone check on Wednesday night during rehearsal at DeKalb High School. The show starts this Friday.

Annie Malecki doesn’t let stereotypes about theater stop her from taking to the stage and singing. 

The Sycamore High School junior and former softball player said she loves to sing and will be belting out tunes as a doo-wop singer for the “Little Shop of Horrors” musical Friday. Malecki said she was inspired to participate because her brother was in a Penguin Project production for the school.

“It’s just fun being somebody you’re not and getting to dress up,” she said. “… It’s just a good time singing.”

Students energetic about theater such as Malecki are not hard to come by in Sycamore and DeKalb high schools. Both schools are staging theatrical productions this weekend and have attracted all types of students ready to take their turn in the spotlight. 

Even though every student from athletes to dancers to musicians pack auditions, theater programs don’t get as much financial support as the other artistic programs such as music. 

“The kids have plenty of outlets to get their art on, I suppose,” said Jeff Hall, director of “Alice in Wonderland,” DeKalb High School’s upcoming production. “I think it has ended up with drama in particular being on the side burner.” 

Schools have a hard time generating funds for theater classes and productions because of a lack of support from the state, he said. Theatrical productions can be pricey, too, as the ticket revenues do not always cover the expenses. 

Beside the costs of creating costumes and sets, the rights to stage a play can be expensive. Hall said the rights for musicals can cost up to $7,000 in some cases.

There’s also the recent change in viewing habits and a still-recovering economy encouraging people to pick cheaper options. Hall said it’s kind of hard to get people to watch live theater when they can rent a movie from Redbox or watch a live stream online. 

Natalie Boone, high school theater director and director of Sycamore’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” said she knows the musical isn’t going anywhere soon with schools like Sycamore High School. One challenge for her is finding students juggling other extracurricular activities who have the time to participate.

“I do find no matter where you are as long as the kids are having fun the theater can be a great thing,” she said.

Participating in theater can enhance reading, writing and critical thinking skills in the classroom, Boone said. The theater can also boost self-confidence and develop social skills. 

“I’ve seen kids open up from being shy homebodies to social butterflies,” Hall said. 

Students who always dreamed of being someone else can be that person on stage, Hall said. The theater provides an escape from homework, parents or other sources of pressure. Anyone who wants to pursue a career in acting can find out about community theater productions or other acting opportunities through high school plays or drama clubs, he said. 

The stage also brings together students from diverse backgrounds. Malecki said she’s seen people from all types of social groups work together and act like a family to put on a good show. 

Boone said performing is a passion for her, and it’s something that needs to stay alive. She said it’s rewarding to see students go through a journey to make the shows happen. 

“Everything comes together,” Boone said, “and you make magic on the stage.”

Sycamore High School

What: “Little Shop of Horrors”

Where: Sycamore High School, 555 Spartan Trail, Sycamore

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets can be purchased online at or by phone at 815-899-8160, ext. 2173. Tickets are $6. 

DeKalb High School

What: “Alice in Wonderland”

Where: DeKalb High School, 501 W. Dresser Road, DeKalb

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday ; 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children and seniors; and free for DeKalb High School students. Tickets will be available at the door.

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