Christy Anderson is no stranger to the stage.
"It's been all theater, all the time," she said, describing her singular-focused career path from theater student to first-year theater teacher.
Anderson, who landed at South Albany High School, will attempt another first this year: her first student production.
"Shrek: The Musical" is set to begin Thursday night at Linn Benton Community College's Russell Tripp Performance Center in Albany. (See info box for details.)
And while every show production comes with challenges, there's one unique to South Albany High School Theater Arts' production of the timeless tale of a misunderstood ogre.
The animated Dreamworks movie (which spawned three sequels, two holiday-themed shorts, and a "Puss in Boots" spinoff) debuted in 2001, meaning its very first fans are now 19 years old. Essentially, the high-schoolers taking to the stage Thursday have grown up with the story.
"I want to help the story meet their expectations," Anderson said. "But I also want to surprised them, so this is a fun challenge."
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Another challenge? How to stage a show that's reliant on mythical, make-believe characters, like a giant dragon. In South Albany's production, that will be taken care of by switching out the traditional monster-sized puppet for an ordinary-sized high school student with a "fabulous" cape.
"It's a prop- and costume-heavy show," Anderson said, "and so, yeah, that was a challenge."
One that the students readily took on, finding materials and inspirations for their costumes, the set and other aspects of the stage that will transform the stage into a swamp.
The cast will be led by upperclassmen with previous theater experience: Chris Vega-Deleon as Shrek, Abigail DeYoung as Fiona, and Payton Adams as Donkey — but Anderson hasn't counted out her freshmen.
"The freshmen have been incredible," she said. "They've been tackling every obstacle."
While "Shrek" may be full of challenges for a first-time teacher, Anderson said she chose the show because of its message and because she knew she had the school district's support.
"It's such a gift," she said. "I'm fortunate to have a district that supports the arts. It would be impossible to put on a show as big as 'Shrek' without support from the school district."
As for her expectations, she said she hopes the audience is surprised by how often they'll be humming along to the music and that the students take the show's message to heart.
"What makes us special makes us stronger," she said. "It's especially applicable to high school students."