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Oxford High School Theatre fundraiser on Saturday about more than the show

It will come as no surprise to the Oxford-Lafayette community that Oxford High School students are hosting a final fundraiser for an upcoming trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland this August. The trip marks the fifth time in ten years that OHS Theatre has been invited to perform at the internationally renowned festival, and parents and students alike have grown accustomed to consistent fundraising efforts.

What makes Saturday night’s event special is the 65-plus former OHS students who will be returning to their old stomping ground to perform Stephen Sondheim’s Company in concert.

Alumni from the classes of 2002 to 2017 will gather this Thursday evening to rehearse for Saturday’s performance. Coming from L.A. to New York, Seattle to Atlanta, Toronto to Austin, these former students were eager for the opportunity to perform once again on the stage of the Kayla Mize Auditorium.

While only a handful of those returning are currently working in theater, they are all coming back to the stage for a singular reason: John Davenport.

Since he started teaching, John Davenport has not only created a theater department with a reputation for producing high-quality work, but also built an important community for many of the high school students. With multiple awards and recognitions over the past fifteen years, the artistic success of the theater department is undeniable. The impact this program has on the students is much harder to describe.

The rapport he has with his students is well known and the mutual respect is clear. One of Davenport’s many talents is the way he treats students as artistic peers. It is no secret that his expectations are high, but these teenagers consistently rise to the occasion to create work that is extraordinary and inspiring.

It is safe to say that working with John Davenport creates a lasting impression whether you participate in one show or twenty. And the lessons learned to go far beyond the stage. These lessons include developing a respectable work ethic, properly delivering a punchline, receiving constructive criticism, truly listening and empathizing, working through exhaustion (sweet tea helps), solving problems, using a table saw, completing an entire costume change in 15 seconds, and knowing when to let go and trust that the work is good.

The alumni returning this weekend have pursued a variety of careers, but whether they are currently performing or haven’t stood on a stage in ten years, the importance of their time in OHS theater is palpable. How else could you explain 20- and 30-somethings taking time out of their lives to return to high school?

It’s definitely about more than the show. Even when the stage lights are dark, John Davenport supports you through tragedy and triumph. Current and former students alike always have a place in the OHS theater department. When you work on the Oxford High School stage, you’re in good company.

Mary Pat Leslie, 15 John Davenport productions

Genie Leslie, 21 John Davenport productions

Kate Leslie, 26 John Davenport productions