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New production draws from best of 2 schools
The Johnson High and the North Hall High drama departments rehearse together Monday afternoon at the Johnson High theater. The two schools are coming together for a joint production.

‘Anatomy of Gray’
When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Johnson High School, 3305 Poplar Springs Road, Gainesville
How much: $5, at the door

In this age of competitive classrooms and football rivalries, one might think school drama departments would be the last to collaborate on a project.

You know, all that drama going on.

But a production starting this weekend that’s a collaboration between North Hall High School and Johnson High School debunks that theory, with students from both sides of the aisle proclaiming the effort has helped them make new friends and enhance their acting experience at the same time.

"Anatomy of Gray" is a 19th-century drama that follows Galen Gray, a country doctor who doubts his own ability to heal. When he finds himself in a small town named Gray and saves the life of a local girl, he starts down a path of finding himself in the process.

Johnson drama teacher Gail Jones said she has wanted to perform the play for some time; she was the second drama teacher at North Hall before cutbacks forced her to leave last year. She landed a job teaching English at Johnson High School for this year, and not long after starting, a position teaching drama opened up.

Jan Ewing, the drama director at North Hall, inspired Jones to partner the schools for the production.

"At the beginning of the year the (Johnson) drama teacher left — I called Jan and said, ‘I don’t think I can do a show of my own,’" Jones said. "She said, ‘Why don’t we do one together?’"

The result is a production melding the students, with everyone pulling together for a cohesive production. Even the live band providing music for the production represents cooperation between the two schools.

"It’s worked beautifully; they’ve really bought into it" said Jones, noting that even when the casting was going on, students were pulling for their new friends as much as their old ones. "They were just interested in the show being well cast."

Johnson junior Caleb Barfield said the collaboration has been a success.

"It’s so much fun. We got to meet so many new people," said Barfield, who plays the town pastor.

Chelsea Stephenson, a sophomore at Johnson, agreed.

"It’s a lot of fun. We get to meet everyone and hang out after the play," she said, adding that the play "is very interesting. I think people should go see it."

One other unique aspect of the production is the live band, made up of students from both North Hall and Johnson. The acoustic pickin’ complements the era of the play, Jones said, and the students helped research the music.

"They went through the script and came up with themes — water, because the town is next to a river, and blood, because the doctor is afraid of blood — so they researched traditional songs that had to do with the play," she said.

Overall, the joint effort has benefitted the students in many ways, she said.

"Kids have worked collaboratively to build the set," she added. "I gave them the vision and they worked with it."