Theater arts supporter raises curtain for youth

Community Portrait
By: Michael Kirby
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Community and what’s good for the community — that’s what drives Auburn’s Miccie McNee. McNee’s idea is a little different from most as she goes about helping students be a positive presence in the community. McNee facilitates theater arts locally along with a staff of concerned adults to bring quality musical theater to middle and high school students. “Tonight is the first rehearsal for our current summer program musical production that the kids will perform in late July and early August during its two-week run,” said McNee. “The musical comedy is called ‘Urinetown’ and received several Broadway awards. It’s about being a good community.” McNee got started behind the scenes in theater while assisting Jackie Shimonauff at E.V. Cain Middle School with a production of “Peter Pan” in 1994 in which her daughter had a part. When Shimonauff retired McNee wanted to see the program continue and decided to keep the program alive. At that point I became a producer,” McNee said. “With help of director Bryan Marshall, vocal director Patti Leftridge, and a little later costumer Joyce Silva, we marched on.” As the students in E.V. Cain’s theater arts program graduated they expressed a desire for more opportunities to participate in theater, and the summer program was developed. Approximately 40 students and a staff of adults, parents and volunteer will be involved in this summer’s “Urinetown” production. “The kids will put in over 200 hours in the summer program. It’s quite a commitment and they receive summer school credits,” McNee said. In the nearly 12 years McNee has been involved in the musical theater she has worked on 32 productions. Sometimes she’s a producer, other times she’s done publicity, sewn costumes. “Lots of parents also help in the wings. It wouldn’t be possible without everyone’s help,” McNee said. McNee believes the students pick up more than singing and dancing skills through their participation in the productions. “The life skills they are learning are important. Many of them are shy and have never been in front of an audience before. I see that transformation, seeing them being able to speak out about the right pathway for a community to take, or a kind gesture, being respectable in the community,” she said. “The performance always makes me cry. I see the students in the beginning: they can’t dance, they hit the wrong notes, they’re unsure and they’re not convincing in characters.” By the end of the musical run all that changes. “They transform into dancers, singers, actors, and do a really wonderful job, but it’s what they step into next that really matters to me,” she said. Some students go on to do good things outside of theater and many of the students grow up and come back as volunteers, helping McNee with new shows. McNee moved to Auburn in 1982 with her husband and raised four children. She is involved in the Symphony Goes to School Program, working with a small committee that arranges visits by members of the Auburn Symphony to local schools.