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From the stage to director's chair for Smith





Jessica McGuire was impressed with 11-year-old Brandon Smith when he earned a significant part in Heartland Community Theater's summer musical "Bye, Bye Birdie" back in 2004.

McGuire, who has played many a role for the local community theater through the years, now is even more in awe of Smith, all grown up at 21 years old.

Smith, who will be a senior at Wichita State University in the fall, was selected to direct the 2013 musical "9 to 5" for the theater, which has been renamed Hays Community Theater.

The performances are set for 7 p.m. July 11, 12 and 13 and 2 p.m. July 14, all at the Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior-Senior High School auditorium.

Tickets can be purchased for the four-show performance by calling (785) 259-1467. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students.

Smith was a student himself -- a young one at that -- when he performed in his first musical the summer after his sixth-grade year at Felten Middle School.

That started a successful performing and musical career that led him to numerous on-stage performances at Hays High School, a performing arts program at Butler Community College in El Dorado, through the School of Performing Arts at WSU, and this summer, back home to Hays.

"I've always wanted to do this," Smith said of his directorship. "I've enjoyed it much more getting to coach people and see what they can do than to just see what I can accomplish myself."

Smith, who will graduate from Wichita State in December 2014 with a degree in anthropology, said he was looking for a volunteer project for the summer.

"This fulfilled exactly what I wanted," said Smith, who has been on stage for eight different HCT performances, worked up the choreography for two others and ran the lights for another. "This is a way to express art in a different setting."

McGuire, for one, thinks Smith is as talented as a director as he is on stage.

"I respect him so much," McGuire said. "He is so organized and has everything scheduled, so we make the most of our time."

Smith said he always has liked the variety of people he gets to work with in community theater, and this year is no different.

"At school, you work with those who want to do this for their career," Smith said. "Here, there are people with all these different careers ... teachers and high-schoolers, someone who works in a bank, a mailman," he began, naming a few of the various day jobs held by this summer's cast.

"To see what affects their creativity is really rewarding."

The musical is about three female co-workers who come up with a plan to get even with their egotistical boss.

McGuire said she immediately liked the musical the theater's board of directors chose for summer 2013, then was even more excited when she heard who would be directing it.

"He's so passionate about what he does, and he has a way to pull the best out of us," McGuire said of Smith. "The first day of practice, I already knew this was going to be the favorite show I've ever done."