West Ashley High’s ‘Legally Blonde’ is a Special Final Performance for Two Long-Time Educators
WEST ASHLEY, SC (LEYLA GULEN, WTAT-TV) — West Ashley High School is performing its musical production of ‘Legally Blonde’ this week. But this show is particularly special because two women, teachers, and theater mentors, are both retiring after decades in education.
While the curtain is going up once again for West Ashley High’s drama students, it’s coming down for two beloved instructors who are retiring after playing a major role in staging annual productions at West Ashley.
Nancy Shurlds has been at it for a half century.
“This is my 50th year and I’ve loved every one of them. I don’t know what that says about my sanity but I really, truly have,” said Shurlds.
Shurlds and her co-director and best friend, Ellyn Winkles, who’s been teaching for 29 years, are both taking a final bow after this production of ‘Legally Blonde’.
“It’s just been really something that has built over the years and the community looks forward to it,” said Winkles.
Winkles comes from a legacy of educators. Her mother was a teacher and her sister currently teaches at West Ashley.
Winkles has been there since the school opened in 2000 and has been doing musicals every year since.
“It starts as a high school thing but really it’s something I think those memories they treasure beyond. Many of them pursue it as a career or hobby and I think it means the world, not only to this high school but to our community,” said Winkles.
But especially to the drama students like Nicholas Denton, even though the process isn’t always easy.
“The hardest part is, you know, some days you’ll be really tired but you always got to give it your maximum effort, which everyone does in this class. I mean this class has been wonderful this whole semester and this play is going to be really great,” Denton said. “Everybody’s giving it a hundred percent – all they got, we’re all into it.”
This is also Denton’s farewell performance before he heads to Toccoa Falls College in Georgia to pursue sports management and physical education.
Not to say he didn’t entertain professional acting, but his favorite part; “To be honest, the singing. Sometimes at the house my mom can hear me singing a little bit of jams and I wish I was in some of the dances, but, you know.”
But you know – He is playing Emmett Forrest, the love interest to the musical’s main character, Elle, played by Payton Morelli.
“It makes me feel really special,” said Morelli. “I actually saw ‘Legally Blonde’ on Broadway when I was really young and I’ve loved it ever since.”
“Being on the stage, I just love when the show actually comes together and you’re just out there with your friends performing.”
“I love this time of the show productions where you’re in full blast, you’re in rehearsals every day and I just love coming up on stage to a full audience every night and I just love the spotlight,” said Emma Ferguson.
Emma is playing the hairdresser, Paulette Bonafonte.
She’ll be heading to College of Charleston in the fall where she hopes to continue her stage career.
“They’re going big, we’re all going big… It’s unlike anything they’ve ever done before and I really think with the team that we have this year it’s gonna be so good and so amazing,” she said.
“What I would like to happen is the reason I teach, and that is, I want people that I’m in contact with to feel better about themselves than they did before they met me.” said Shurlds. “So I want them to think when that audience stands to applaud ‘wow, I can do anything I want to do.’ That is what teaching is. You want kids to believe they can do the best, because they can.”
Some 70 West Ashley students will be performing “Legally Blonde” through Friday. We want to wish the best of good luck in Ms. Shurlds and Ms. Winkles retirement.