Little Mermaid…

A Happy Ending and a New Beginning


by Kellean Gale

One of the best things about living in Floyd, VA, is the interest, encouragement, and creativity in performing art. From this support and community interest comes one of the most enjoyable art experiences of the summer. In collaboration, The June Bug Center and Floyd Community Theatre Guild provide a three-week summer camp class experience, Musical Theater for Teens. This year students took up the challenge of putting on a production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. 

This summer’s musical play was an exceptional challenge because the summer program is a shortened class and usually presents a Broadway Review of several shows due to the shortened time for rehearsals. Undaunted by the short schedule, this year’s students who wanted a challenge took on the entire musical, The Little Mermaid, and accomplished it in only three weeks. Not an easy feat for any performance group. These 6th to 12th-grade students took on two months of work and did an outstanding job singing, dancing, and playing out the parts of one of the Disneys Musicals, The Little Mermaid. Many of the students have previously participated in the Afterschool Musical Theatre for Teens program during the school year and brought that experience to theatre summer camp. During the school year, teens participate in putting on a musical theatre production performed for the community. They worked to learn lines, sing, act, and dance skills they perform to pre-recorded music. 

The story of Ariel, the little mermaid, is well known. Fascinated with all things from the land and longing to explore and live a life above the waves, Ariel gives up everything she knows from her watery world beneath the sea to find adventure, happiness, and love with Prince Eric out of the sea and on the land. For Ariel, the transition is not without peril and emotion. Still, with the help of her friends, Sebastian and Flounder, Ariel overcomes the objections of her father, King Triton, and the evil intentions of the Sea Witch Ursula to follow her dream. The story is classic, and the music delightful. Speaking to several friends who attended performances, I heard praise for the talented students and many good reviews. “We had a really good time. The singing was good, and the students knew their lines and performed their parts well. “The only suggestion for a change I heard was that at times the sound through the microphones was a little muffled, so they missed a few lines of dialog. Not bad for only three weeks rehearsal time. Great job!

Emily Gruver, director of the June Bug Center for the past three years, worked with the students, directing The Little Mermaid, and said, “I am very impressed with the work the students have done.” Emily accepted a teaching position and left her position as director of JBC. Her last day as director of JBC was July 16th, and The Little Mermaid was her final production with the Teen Musical Theater class. Gruver has accepted a teaching position with Blacksburg Middle School 

teaching theater. Undoubtedly she will be missed by the students and the Floyd community. A few of the plays she has directed while working in Floyd are Shrek, The Big Bad Musical, Frozen, Oz, and this summer’s production of The Little Mermaid. During our interview, she spoke about her three years as a director of the June Bug Center with fondness. “June Bug is a special place” and promised to return in a volunteer capacity in the future.

Shannon Hardwicke comes to Floyd as the new director of JBC. Before coming to JBC, she worked in higher education as a professor at Radford University, Virginia Tech, and Ferrum College, a small arts college in Franklin County with an impressive theater program. Her first day at the JBC was July 5th, and she officially assumed the position of director on July 19th. To ensure the handover went smoothly, she has been working with Emily over the past three weeks to learn her new responsibilities and be sure she is comfortable in her new position. “Emily is a superstar. I am so nervous about filling her shoes.”

Shannon has fallen in love with Floyd. “I fell in love week one with Floyd. The community support is such a blessing, and I am so grateful to everyone. The whole staff, instructors, and the board are wonderful.” Since arriving, she has been helping out, getting ready for the summer production, and getting to know the students. “This performance is going to be amazing! To pull it off in three weeks, “I am floored with these kids and their hard work.”

Looking to the future and working in conjunction with the afterschool program, Musical Theatre for Teens, on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Shannon is excited to start the new musical and work with the students. The program is non-profit and relies on donations from the community and sponsorships. There is a tuition 

fee for the program, but all students interested in participating are welcome, and the tuition fee is determined on a sliding fee scale based on income. For information about the June Bug Center, contact Shannon Hardwicke, Executive Director, 540-745-6550.


Emily Gruver (L) and
Shannon Hardwicke (R)


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