Thespian grabbing the spotlight, theatergoers' attention

Staff Photo: Erin Evans
 Richard Hall works with students from the Social Circle Theater Well Diggers performance troupe on a dance routine. 

Staff Photo: Erin Evans Richard Hall works with students from the Social Circle Theater Well Diggers performance troupe on a dance routine. 

CONYERS — Lots of hard work and manhours invested at the Social Circle Theater paid off for local resident Richard Hall, yielding him an all-expenses paid trip to the Big Apple this weekend.

Adjudicators at the Junior Theatre Festival, held recently at the Cobb Galleria, chose Hall as an outstanding national educator for his direction of the musical, "Thoroughly Modern Millie Junior." The show featured roughly 25 youth from Social Circle, Conyers and Covington, among other locations, and itself won an outstanding production award at the festival.

The Junior Theatre Festival chose the Social Circle Well Diggers' performance of "Thoroughly Modern Millie Junior," along with four other theater troupe's shows, for the honor out of 50 productions from across the country.

Music Theatre International, a New York-based company that licenses Junior shows, truncated versions of regular Broadway productions designed for elementary and middle school performers, sponsored the Junior Theater Festival and Hall's excursion.

Hall arrived at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square on Friday and returns home today, having spent the weekend participating in master classes from some of Broadway's leading choreographers, directors, producers, actors and designers.

"This is the first time I've ever been to New York. I'm completely stoked. This is huge," said the 25-year-old Hall a few days before his trip.

He looked forward to instruction from special guest Broadway teachers, including Academy Award nominee and Tony and Emmy Award winners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, Tony Award winning director and choreographer Jeff Calhoun, and Broadway star and choreographer Baayork Lee.

"These are hugely popular, wildly talented people that we'll get to work with," Hall said.

Hall has lived in the Newton/Rockdale area since elementary school, attending Memorial Middle School for seventh and eighth grade and Salem High School for ninth and 10th grade. He graduated from Social Circle High School in 2003.

While a student, he participated in Conyers Kids and Class Act, local theater and musical performance groups, where he honed his acting, singing and dancing skills. He credits teachers and mentors, such as Conyers Kids director Joey Fargar and Salem High School educator and former theater director Jerry Smith, with teaching him everything from stage design to effective communication.

"I was like a sponge," Hall said. "They taught me more than I could ever explain."

Hall said the transition into Social Circle High School proved difficult because the school didn't offer a fall or spring musical like Rockdale schools. He talked his teacher into competing in the Georgia High School Association's One Act Play competition and he started a dance team at Social Circle High.

"It lit a fire under me," Hall said. "It's something that had to be done and I felt like I could help."

After a short stint at Athens Technical College, Hall decided to volunteer at the Social Circle Theater and eventually he was hired as a choreographer, marketing associate, assistant director and director, as well as summer camp instructor.

He has hosted a dinner theater fundraiser, performed by youth, and started the Well Diggers, the youth theater troupe which performed "Thoroughly Modern Millie" at the Junior Theatre Festival.

Hall said he appreciates being recognized for his work but that he would participate in theater any way he could.

"If I had to push a broom across the floor for free, I would be happy," Hall said. "Theater means so much to me and the kids that I teach and it breaks my heart that without Social Circle Theater they would have no place to express themselves, to be loud and creative."

Hall said he's considering earning a college degree in a theater-related field, but until then he'll have to carve out a niche for himself using just his passion for the stage.

"When you don't have a degree or education, the only way to do it is to show people that you have a drive and you're good at it, and they take notice," Hall said.