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Taking chances: Liberty seniors drawn to theater, help students take pride in school

Cameron Harrison reacts as he listens to Kevin Giffhorn's commencement address during Liberty High School's graduation ceremony at McDaniel College in Westminster Sunday.
Cameron Harrison reacts as he listens to Kevin Giffhorn's commencement address during Liberty High School's graduation ceremony at McDaniel College in Westminster Sunday. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTOS , Carroll County Times)

Two years ago, the Liberty High School drama club needed a male lead actor to play Troy Bolton in "High School Musical 2."

Director Tony Cimino cast Nathan Cromer, a wide receiver on the junior varsity football team with no previous acting experience for the role based on the movie character played by Zac Efron.

Cromer could sing. He figured out the acting. He was the right fit, Cimino said at the time.

Every student that wants to take part in Liberty drama is given a role. No cuts are made.

Liberty High School graduated 290 students Sunday at McDaniel College. Many students in Liberty's Class of 2012, including Cromer, found a niche in the program either on stage or behind the scenes.

Cromer became a familiar face on stage. His "Beauty and the Beast" solo garnered a raucous ovation at the county's Drama Fest, where theater participants from throughout the county's public high schools gather for a day of performances and classes.

That performance was made possible because he took a chance when given the opportunity.

"[Cimino] found out that I sang and he kept bugging me to try out," Cromer said. "I told my parents about it and they said, 'you know, you really should try out, you'd be good at it.'"

Katelyn Lester, Liberty High's senior class vice president and Student Government Association Executive Board member, got her theatrical start in the same "High School Musical 2" show that Cromer did.

She too became a regular and was part of the "War Letters" cast that won first-place honors at the Maryland State Thespian Society competition. Seniors Aly Julian and Kristen Luther won individual awards for acting at the competition, and Andrew Smith won for set design.

The Thespian Society state win earned eight Liberty seniors a chance to attend nationals and perform "War Letters" in Omaha, Neb., June 25-30. Even though they graduate this weekend, they aren't done performing for their school.

It made the last performance of "Beauty and the Beast" this spring easier to get through for the seniors, Lester said.

"We get this last chance," she said.

The Liberty seniors have already taken advantage of so many, leading the school's sports teams to three state championships, the marching band to a Tournament of Bands Chapter Five championship in October and the chorus to an excellent rating at the Maryland State Choral Assessment.

Senior Grant Kilduff spearheaded an effort to hold a winter dance, which raised more than $5,000 for sarcoma research.

Winter dances did not take place in recent years at Liberty because student interest and involvement simply was not there, Lester said. The seniors were instrumental in a Restore the Roar campaign in the hopes to have students take pride in their school.

"I'm proud of the spirit we brought to the school," said Lester, who is attending Belmont University in Nashville next fall.

Cromer is off to Towson University, where he is majoring in jazz vocal performance.

"I am more than willing to participate in theater productions at Towson if they let me," Cromer said.

He's already looking for that next chance.

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