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Your Tewksbury Today

Local Thespians to Perform in Charitable Song and Dance Extravaganza

Jun 22, 2017 11:13AM ● By Sara Axson

There has perhaps never been a better time to be a part of high school theatre.

The activity has received a dramatic revival of attention due to television shows, books, and films that explore the ever growing world of school theatre. In addition, the popularity and acclaim of contemporary musicals and plays that utilize modern sounds and themes and relate to history and English curriculums have lead many critics and historians to believe that American theatre is in a new platinum age.

Plus, the accessibility of the internet and social media has created new opportunities for teenage thespians to network and thrive, and theatre education organizations such as the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild and the International Thespian Society provide competitions and feedback for students.

One immediate consequence of this is that high school theatre students show new levels of intense enthusiasm and commitment. As such, many high school thespians perform with community theatre groups and summer programs over school vacations where they perfect their skills, meet like students from other schools, and gain valuable experiences. However, high school students who opt to produce and direct their own shows over the summer are scarcer to come by. Scarcer still are high schoolers who choose to do this not in the name of networking or resume building, but to make art with their peers and donate the proceeds to local charities. Nonetheless, a local group of budding thespians has done just that.

On Saturday, June 24, a group of high school theatre students from across the Merrimack Valley will be performing in a charity cabaret, among them many Tewksbury Memorial High School students.

Unlike a traditional musical, where actors play specific characters in a structured narrative throughout the duration of the show, a cabaret is a collection of songs from various musicals placed together, often selected specifically to highlight the accomplishments and tunes of a specific composer or artist or portray a certain theme. The theme of this cabaret, however, is simply the celebration of musical theatre and the positive impact that it can have on people of all ages and backgrounds.

Although charity and benefit performances are common amongst professionals, they are seldom initiated and run entirely by high school students, which is just part of what makes this performance so special. The production is 100% student produced and directed-a significant accomplishment for a group of young artists. In its second year, the idea was conceived by Wilmington High School student Julia Burke, who says she was inspired by her experiences directing plays for younger students.

“I had such a fun time directing the kids and teaching them what I knew about theatre and about being onstage that I realized that I wanted to keep doing that,” said Burke. Even though last year’s cabaret featured only 10 performers, the size of the company has more than doubled in its second year.

The company and production team of Cabaret 2017 have been rehearsing the show for several months. Despite being a great deal of hard work, Burke says that the rehearsal process has been “so fun” for everyone involved. Like any musical production, rehearsals have been dedicated to singing, acting, and dancing.

“We basically went song by song, taking one or two rehearsals to do music and blocking/choreography,” she said. “Once they were all finished, we started putting them together, running Act 1 and Act 2, and eventually running the whole show.”

As the show date approaches, the company will enter what is known in show business as “tech week”-the rigorous rehearsal schedule in the days leading up to opening night in which all technical elements are finally incorporated with the performance. Any actor or performer will agree that tech week is long and challenging, a stance which Burke echoes, but she knows that the company will perform an excellent show.

“We’re approaching tech week so that’s stressful, but I have full faith in my cast and production staff that this show will be beautiful on opening night,” she said.All proceeds made from the performance will be going to the charity To Show We Care, a volunteer run organization that provides tickets to see theatrical or musical performances to people suffering from life threatening illnesses. Burke says that she learned about the charity after it was advertised by local theatre companies and regional theatres. To Show We Care not only provides all of its guests tickets free of charge, but helps give them a support network.

Since the costs of tickets to theatrical performances are often very pricey, the work of To Show We Care is vital in giving the seriously ill opportunities to see live theatre and music, many of whom otherwise might not have to economic resources to see a show. Because theatre and music are proven to have a positive effect on emotional and physical health, it is extremely important that groups like To Show We Care exist and receive enough funding and support to fulfill their ever important mission.

“I really love the organization because it supports theatre as almost as an escape, which I totally believe that it is, and I love that while not only supporting the theatre, it supports cancer patients,” said Burke. “We’ve all been touched by cancer in way or another, so I think it’s a really nice charity to donate to.”

Of course, the cabaret is an obvious testament to the talent, dedication, and compassion that is displayed not only by Tewksbury High School thespians, but in high school theatre programs throughout the state and country. Yet, what it speaks to most is the camaraderie and sense of community that high school theatre programs create for student, both in and out of the school hallways. The high schoolers involved in this production are not just peers, but teammates and friends. The experience of creating a unique show that is all their own with friends is part of what makes the cabaret so special, says Tewksbury student and cast member Connor Mangan. “It’s really an easy opportunity to engage with people you already know but through theatre. I’ve gotten to be close with so many people in the best environment,” he said.

Cabaret 2017 is set to feature songs from musicals like Singin’ in the Rain, Footloose, West Side Story, Seussical, and more. The company consists of Julie Carlisle, Brian Carta, Erin Ciampa, Melanie Crepeau, Brooke Fullerton, Justina Macneil, Nick Macneil, Rachel Mahoney, Connor Mangan, Scott Mazzapica, Sarah Michaud, Connor Nugent, Samantha Nugent, and Janine Richardson of Tewksbury. It also includes Aidan Briere, Allyson Buckley, Abby Callahan, Meghan Consorti, Courtney Cummings, Maria Hernandez, Naj Martinez, Max Quinton, Skylar Smith, and Alexa Vincente of Wilmington. The show’s creative team includes Julia Burke of Wilmington as director, and Maeve Costigan of Tewksbury as Assistant-Director. The show is choreographed by Burke and Costigan, music directed by Jordan Briere of Wilmington, and stage managed by Sharan Ramanan of Wilmington. Cabaret 2017 is at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 24 at the United Methodist Church in Wilmington, and tickets cost $8.

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