By By Shandi Dix, Fort Riley Public AffairsMarch 25, 2011
JUNCTION CITY, Kan. - Characters from a common Disney movie made an appearance on the Junction City High School stage in the drama department's production of "Beauty and the Beast" March 17 to 19.
Auditions for the speaking and singing parts were conducted prior to winter break in December, with rehearsals beginning in January.
JCHS senior Marvin Palacios Jr., portrayed Maurice in his second performance at JCHS. He also was involved in "Egad! The Woman in White" and participates in small plays at his church and is in Concert Choir at JCHS.
Palacios is the son of Herlinda and Sgt. Marvin Palacios Sr., Company E, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.
Being involved in the "Beauty and the Beast" production served as a distraction helping Palacios deal with his father's recent deployment, he said.
"It gives you something else to do - something after school," Palacios said.
Portraying Lumiere was senior Omil Coleman-Esquilin in his first-year of musical productions at JCHS.
This year, Coleman-Esquilin also is involved in the Chamber and Concert choirs.
Coleman-Esquilin is the son of Lenitsie Esquilin and Sgt. Mick Coleman, Headquarters Support Company, 601st Aviation Support Battalion, CAB, 1st Inf. Div.
Being around his friends, Coleman-Esquilin said, distracts him from his father's deployments.
"It just gets your mind off of other things," he said.
Acting as one of the Silly Girls was junior Deondra Johnson.
"Beauty and the Beast" was Johnson's first production at JCHS. She also is involved in the JC Singers, Lady Blues and Chamber Choir.
Johnson is the daughter of Gloria and Robert Johnson. Gloria works as a supervisory human resources specialist, Southwest Civilian Personnel Operations Center, Civilian Human Resources Agency, and Robert is currently deployed to Afghanistan as a trainer.
Participating in a musical for their first year of high school were freshmen siblings Mykayla and Andrew Keillor.
Mykayla participated in the production as a dancer, portraying a napkin and a villager. Andrew portrayed Chip.
The Keillor siblings are the children of Amy and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeremiah Keillor, commander, 1st Infantry Division Band.
The siblings dealt with their father's recent deployment by keeping busy with the musical production.
"It helps you get your mind off of everything," Mykayla said. "It was stressful for us, so being in the musical took a lot of our time, so it was easier."
Portraying the leads of Belle and the Beast were freshman Taylor Collette as Belle and senior Zan Bertolino.
Collette is the daughter of Bobbie and Jeremy Collette, telecommunications specialist, CSC. Bertolino is the son of Tina Knowles, fire inspector, Fort Riley Fire Department.
Also recently dealing with a deployment was Jennifer Johnston, JCHS music teacher and director of the production.
Johnston's husband, Sgt. Matthew Johnston, human resources noncommissioned officer, 1st Inf. Div. Band, recently returned from a yearlong deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Johnston chose "Beauty and the Beast" because of its appeal to a wide variety of people among students and the community.
"I knew the community would get behind it and bring their kids," Johnston said.
Johnston said she believes students involved in drama productions gain friends and camaraderie.
"It gives them a home within the school immediately because we're together all the time," she said. "It automatically throws them into a situation where they're making friends, they have more social contacts within the building, (and) they help each other out with homework and social problems.
"The kids that have parents who are deployed will talk to each other sometimes and just kind of comradely and support socially."
Along with the students being involved in extracurricular activities like musical productions, it also helped Johnston get through her husband's deployment.
"It gave me something else to focus on," Johnston said. "It gave me somewhere to put my energy, and helping out the kids was kind of its own therapy for me because I knew I was doing good, and I didn't have time to think about (my) own feelings because I was so involved in what was going on here.
"It was a way to kind of defer what I was feeling about him being gone, but in a positive way that was giving back to the kids."