KINGMAN - Unifying students at Kingman and Lee Williams high schools through a combined theater performance was a no-brainer for Clare Schroeder.
The technical theater teacher at KHS quickly took her idea to Sarah Kucharek, who teaches the same classes at LWHS, and together, they put together the two schools' first combined musical.
Called "Once Upon a Mattress," the production tells the story of a devious queen who tries to keep her son - and the rest of her kingdom - from marrying by forcing his potential mates to pass impossible tests.
"We're doing this to unite two high schools that have been pitted against each other in academics, sports and other areas," said Schroeder. "We are out to show that collaboration between these schools is possible.
"When we make art into a competition, we lose the very nature of it, and that harms the kids and does a disservice to the community."
The musical comedy includes about 70 actors, technicians and musicians, with students from both schools participating in each element.
The family-friendly love story features a 20-mattress bed, crafted at the school and wheeled out for a scene where the princess can't sleep because of a pea stuck between the bottom mattresses.
The attempt at unifying the two high schools hasn't been lost on the students participating in the production.
Daniel Pozenel, a freshman at KHS, and Victoria Nowicki, a LWHS freshman, are both members of the musical's singing ensemble.
They said they have met new friends while practicing together and learned to accept each other.
"It's a different kind of feeling having people who don't go to this school become part of our family," said Pozenel. "The Lee Williams students were shy at first, but they opened up to us, and we opened up to them. It's a lot more fun having them here."
"It's really fun and much more professional to work as a big group," she said. "At first, I was scared because of the new kids from Kingman High School, but they're very kind and they made us feel really welcome."