It has been three years since the young people of Northside Church on North Highland have been able to do their annual production which usually takes place in early summer.
The production is written and produced by the youth group members themselves in addition to the stage performances which also take place at Hope Hall on the church campus.
The production returns with this year’s presentation titled “Wanted,” a redemption story set in the post-Civil War American West. There are three performances – Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Admission is free for all performances. Anyone bringing a group of 15 is encouraged to log onto Northsidejackson.com to request reserved seating.
“We encourage anyone who wants to wear their cowboy boots and hats to make it a western night out,” said Brennen Flowers, a recent Madison Academic graduate who was the production’s head writer. This project fits into his current plans in life as he is about to attend Middle Tennessee State University and pursue a major in film and video production.
Flowers, Josh Roolf and Emma Gaskill have all been part of this production since they were each in sixth grade, which is the first year a member of the Northside Youth Program can be part of it. Roolf just graduated from the University School of Jackson and is heading to Texas A&M in the fall. Gaskill has just completed his freshman year at Jackson Christian.
“It’s been really disappointing the last two years not being able to have that,” Roolf said. “I remember being in sixth grade to finish my freshman year with this, and we have a cast night after the last night where a few awards are handed out.
“And I remember thinking ‘I wish I could be the one who did this for seven years when I’m done’, and I can’t say that because we had to cancel the last two years.”
Gaskill, who is also part of her school’s drama department, said she loved the production because of the time she spent with others at her church as they prepared for the performances.
Traditionally, students spend the majority of the week leading up to church performances in a process called Tour. They arrive at the church at 9 a.m. on Monday morning and basically live there all week, rehearsing the production over and over and seeing which areas of the production need the most work.
While the pandemic has caused some adjustments to the structure of the Tour, this tradition has also returned this week.
“The whole experience is really almost a rite of passage for students here at Northside,” Flowers said. “I remember when I was little, I would come to shows and watch them be ready for when it was my turn to be a part of them.”
Janae Bryant didn’t grow up in Northside. In fact, her family moved to Jackson and started attending church in early 2020 just before the pandemic hit. So she heard about the production her first few weeks at church and signed up for it almost immediately.
“I was really disappointed when it got canceled because I was looking forward to the experience and getting to know more people here through it,” Bryant said. “And then we were hoping to do it last year, and that was canceled as well.”
This week’s tour was a bit different as the older students stayed overnight at different families’ homes across the church while the younger students stayed at the church.
“It adds another incentive for older kids or for younger kids,” said Glenn Miller, director of student ministries at the church.
Pool parties and other activities, including some church mission opportunities, are included throughout the week to provide a memorable experience for everyone involved before the curtain goes up on Friday evening.
Contact Brandon Shields at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or on Instagram at editorbrandon.