“Art means getting your hands dirty, thinking outside the box, looking at things from a different perspective, coloring inside and outside the lines and giving your soul a boost,” said Tricia Oliver, art teacher and drama director at Lee-Scott Academy.

This is fall, Oliver will be directing the LSA drama production of The Jungle Book, based on the collection of stories by Rudyard Kipling. The play will feature the largest cast Oliver has ever directed — 36 students from from second through seventh grade.

The show will have three performances Dec. 2-3. The two evening performances will be open to the public, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. Tickets will be available two weeks before the show and will be $8 for adults and $6 for senior citizens and students.

For Oliver, the latest production is another step in a long career journey.

As a child, her father would take her to art stores to buy supplies. Buying art supplies kept her love for art strong. Ironically, though, she did not take art classes during high school, even though the opportunity presented itself.

“I was more into drama in high school and my parents discouraged me from being a fine arts major, so I took graphic design instead,” she said.

Unsatisfied with that choice, Oliver later changed her major to fine arts in her junior year of college. All the while, she was taking dance lessons and became involved in the Auburn University Theater.

Since then, Oliver has gone on to become a professional photographer, portrait artist and theater director. Many of her works of art have been accepted into juried art shows.

Because of Oliver’s love of theater, she also became the director of the Auburn Children’s Theater. The first full length production Oliver directed was The Secret Garden, for the AACT, during which she recalls working with “a wonderful group of supportive parents.”

She says she has found that same support at Lee-Scott.

“I’ve had wonderful support since being at LSA,” Oliver said. “My favorite production so far here has been Annie, Jr. The cast became very close — embodying what we feel here about being a family. I enjoy watching the connections that are made between the high school and elementary students.”

But drama means more than just producing plays, she adds, “Drama means worrying if the cast you set will break the heart of a little girl enough that she’ll never audition again. Drama means hoping the cast will become a family. Drama means blood and sweat of making it all come together — including painting a set by yourself on a Sunday afternoon. Drama means crying when your cast raises their arms for the final bow. Drama means being lost when you don’t have rehearsal to go to anymore because the show is over.”

On lessons learned from life, Oliver said, “Don’t let anybody tell you not to do what you love. Your talents are God’s gift to you, what you do with them is your gift to God.”