Just settling into new role as director for HHS musical

She’s not a new face in the Hillsboro High School musical productions crew, but this fall Lynn Just is in the director’s chair for the first time as the cast and crew prepare for the autumn production of “Good News.”

For the past 12 years, Just has been credited as the assistant director for the fall musical. But with her new full-time position as HHS choral director this year, her position in the musical was bumped up a notch.

“I’ve been responsible for the blocking on stage and choreography,” Just said of her previous role.

This year, her responsibilities became much bigger.

“I’m responsible for everything in the production-making sure it gets done,” she said.

“Besides the blocking and stage work, it’s also the lights, the sound, helping with the costumes, helping design the sets, getting the props, helping make sure the publicity gets done-just all the things that I never had to do when Mr. (David) Clark was here.”

Clark was the choral director at HHS for 24 years before retiring at the end of the 2004-05 school year. In fact, Clark was a key reason Just became involved in Hillsboro’s musical tradition in the first place.

After teaching kindergarten-to-grade-12 music at Peabody for nine years, Just quit her job to stay at home with her young son.

“Mr. Clark asked if I would come to help with the musical at Hillsboro,” she said. “That was in the summer of ’93, and I’ve been helping him ever since.”

With husband Rod teaching at Hillsboro Elementary School and children Evan, eighth-grade, and daughter Erika, fifth-grade, in the same school system, the position at Hillsboro seemed just right.

“It just worked out that this is the perfect job for me,” Just said.

Although Just has been substituting for Clark for quite a while, being the person in charge of the vocal music program has brought on new responsibilities, including planning concerts for the various choirs, getting performance wardrobe ready, planning class activities and picking and filing music.

“You name it,” she said with a laugh.

Along with her new responsibilities, Just also is bringing a couple of changes to her position as choir director.

“The biggest change is having everyone learn how to sight sing,” Just said. “That’s something I think is really important.

“If you’re going to be in music, you need to be able to read it. Otherwise, no. In fact, I started picking out music for the Christmas concert, and two of the four I picked Mr. Clark picked last year.

“We always have had similar taste in what is quality music.”

A new item Just is bringing into the musical this year is participating in the Jester Awards, which Just described as a local-high-school version of the Academy Awards.

“The Jester Awards are put on by the Music Theatre of Wichita, which is a professional theater company in Wichita,” Just said. “You apply and then they send out directors who come see your show. They have a rubric they follow and give you points.”

The directors then get together to add the points, which determines who gets nominated and ultimately wins the category.

The categories include best actor, best actress, supporting roles, ensemble cast and set construction-all the things students would be involved in.

Because schools in the area perform their musicals at different times during the year-a few schools even present multiple productions-Just won’t know if anyone from Hillsboro will get nominated until May.

Just said she chose “Good News” for several reasons.

“Last summer I got a Tams-Witmark catalog and just started going through it,” she said. “I got several perusal copies (of musicals) to look at, and that was one of them.”

“Good News” is set at the college of Tait, where Tom Marlow, the star football player, is flunking his astronomy class. He cannot play in the championship game unless he passes his astronomy test, so he is given a tutor who he eventually falls for, leaving his heiress girlfriend in the dust.

“He eventually wins the big game for Tait,” Just said. “Through lots of miscommunication and problems, they finally are victorious.

“I really liked that (‘Good News’) was a comedy,” Just added. “It had some good jokes and some good songs in it. But it also was a show that didn’t have just one or two or four characters as leads. It has several leads. It has as many characters you want to have in the chorus so I knew we could use the talent that we have.”

Although “Good News” is a fun and entertaining musical, some of the content had to be edited.

“We did change some of the language and we left out the drinking parts and changed some of the wording in the songs that had to do with drinking,” Just said. “(We) changed some of the innuendos in some of the songs.”

Many of the items that were cleaned up also were major staples in the Roaring 20s, Just said.

“It’s hard to do because you want the flavor of the 1920s, so you can’t take out too much that gives it that flavor,” she said. “So it’s been kind of a balancing act.”

Looking beyond this year’s fall production, Just is excited about her future at HHS. One thing she is looking forward to is the possible installation of a new lighting system in the high school auditorium.

“The school board is looking into it,” Just said. “They are very supportive of the arts, and I think if it is financially feasible, they will support a new system.”

But the future also looks bright for the vocal music department in general. Just said she is excited about her job and is thrilled to be carrying the torch from Clark and continuing the tradition of quality music at HHS.

“He did a really super job,” Just said. “The students are well-rounded in their musical knowledge. It is big shoes to fill, but he has been super supportive and really still great to work with.”

Just said she’s “been having a great time.”

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