Northwest staff members perform music, dance, comedy and magic in first-ever Faculty Follies

Videos of each performance included


Kim Gilyard

All the participants of the Faculty Follies pose for the picture. This is the first Follies of Northwest High.

Savory chips stacked back to back. Orange ticket stubs clutched in hands awaiting. Money jars rattling, hoping for spare change.

Then, the show begins.

Northwest’s first Faculty Follies, also known as a teacher talent show, debuted on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. Magicians with physics-defying ropes, singers with angelic voices, dancers commanding gravity with grace, community sing-a-longs and hilarious skits all filled the stage with Viking-spirit fun.

The proceeds of $750 were divided evenly among the drama department, the media center and the school newspaper.

“Northwest is such a big school,” senior and Faculty Follies Master of Ceremony Kema Leonard said. “We can’t do one thing that brings everyone together, so we need to have these different things that bring different sections of the school together. One of these things is the Faculty Follies. It was great to see students and teachers having a blast. (The follies) really helped with (school) spirit.”

Students could place money in jars–labeled with each act–as a way of voting for their favorites. The winner was an improvisational act performed by science teacher Steve Russillo and theatre teacher Abby Turner; second place was a mass skit performed mainly by the English and counseling departments; and third place was English teacher Scott Walker who read his recently published poem about Alaska and sang an original song while playing acoustic guitar.

“Supporting your teachers (helps) support our school,” Leonard said.

The show started with Russillo with his electric guitar solo rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. He seemed oddly confused at the applause, and the crowd loved it.

“(My favorite part was how) the crowd was very into it,” Russillo said. “I had to stop playing the Star Spangled Banner a couple times because the cheering got so loud I couldn’t even hear my own guitar.”

Then, science teacher Megan Laughlin and Russillo performed a duet; Russillo played the guitar while Laughlin sang “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz, with percussion by cups.

CTE teacher Chris Griggs under the pseudonym “Professor Stonewick” presented a magic performance based on physics concepts.

Walker sang a song and read excerpts of his newly published poetry book titled “A Concept of Right Now.”

This was followed by counselor Elizabeth Lucas singing “Country Roads, Take Me Home” by John Denver with Russillo accompanying on the guitar.

Art teacher Beth Herrick and a few of her Yearbook students performed a modified version of “Sweet Caroline,” basing the act on Viking pride and spirit at Northwest. Beyond hilarious and packed full with Viking spirit, it was a wonderful performance to watch. They also sprinkled in not-so-subtle hints to buy the yearbook at

There was a brief intermission, and then math teachers Matthew Andrews, Catherine Ann Brown, Jennifer Goldin, Jeannine Kivi, Heather Sessoms and Jessica Estep– along with assistant principals Tanya Hiller, Wendy Farrow and Kim Gilyard– performed a meta skit entitled “First Degree”–about the math department brainstorming ideas for the Faculty Follies.

Farrow, Hiller and Gilyard then performed a sing-a-long karoke of “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree” by KT Tunstall with the lyrics displayed on a projector.

English teacher Melanie Huynh-Duc, school nurse Livi Shepherd-Gray, exceptional children’s teacher Kristin Skordahl and media center specialist Natalie Strange performed a ballet quartet to the music “Heimat” by Hauschka. This piece was choreographed in honor of substitute teacher Laurie Powers who passed away in June after a short battle with pancreatic cancer.

Russillo and Turner combined for a joint comedy improv skit, calling upon the help of the technology crew.

And finally, English teachers Ashley Bost, Monica Clark, Lora Medley, Walker and Alex Wertz; exceptional students’ teacher Sherria Edwards; counselors Stacy Garner and Lucas; and science teachers Amy Hamilton and Jessica Tidmore closed the night with a skit highlighting the comical faux pas of students in classrooms. Senior Blake Sullivan played the teacher.

“I loved the interpretation of how students act in their class because it was very accurate,” Leonard said. “It was very comedic, and I think everybody in there did a great job.”

After the amazing performances, third and second place were given miniature trophies, while Russillo took home a medium-sized trophy.

“I was pretty surprised because I was least confident in my improv work compared to the guitar playing,” Russillo said, “but I knew Ms. Turner had knocked it out of the park. Regardless, I told myself ‘if they call our names I’m totally hamming it up.’ Which they did, so I did. By my reaction, you’d think that we’d just won a new car.”

Due to the success, the Faculty Follies will most likely return next year. There are already plans to continue it.

“I can’t imagine not doing this again,” Russillo said.