Surrounding yourself with the best can only make you better.
This seems like an obvious sentiment, but to many people the thought of being challenged or engaged in competition is enough for them to throw in the towel.
In the sports world they say, “To be the best you have to beat the best.” In the arts world the thought is, “Being around the best brings out your best.” And this is something we take very seriously at Bridgeport High School Theatre.
It is very important to us that the theatre at BHS be more than just a play-producing organization. The “Hey, let’s put on a show,” mindset may be fun, and in many cases the easy route to take, but it is absolutely not what is best for the students.
We are, after all, an educational institution, and so our goal must be to provide our students an experience that challenges and changes them in a positive way. How do we do this? Well, for one, we strive to provide as many diverse opportunities as possible. Also, we demand of our students more than they initially believe they can accomplish. But, most importantly, we surround the students with the best possible teachers, mentors, and artists that we can find.
Over the last four years I think we have done an excellent job of becoming more than just what the audience sees on stage. We have become a program.
Now, I would not put this argument in front of you without providing some evidence. So, here it is.
One of the most storied and respected summer stock theaters in this region is located a mere 34 miles from Bridgeport in Morgantown. West Virginia Public Theatre has built its reputation by populating their stage with some of the best musical theatre talent from around the country. Most notably is probably a duo from the NBC show SMASH, Christian Borle and Megan Hilty, who each spent a summer season at WVPT before becoming celebrities of the Broadway stage and the cable airways.
While I don’t yet have a grip on who the out-of-towners will be this year, I do know that when WVPT opens its 28hsummer season in a week, with a slate of shows that are sure to entertain audiences, the casts and artistic staffs will have a decidedly BHS Theatre flavor.
The season opener is 9 to 5 the Musical from June 27 to July 1. The show, based on the hit movie that starred Dolly Parton, is the hilarious story of friendship and revenge in the Rolodex era, and the man who will be in charge of the vocals and leading the orchestra is R.J. Nestor. R.J. only has one show under his belt at BHS, serving as the orchestra director for Footloose this past season, but has already signed on to be a part of our team next year.
Jeremy Crawford, who serves BHS Theatre as the Associate Director and Acting Coach, will be starring in Godspell from July 4 to July 8. Based upon the Gospel according to St. Matthew and drawing from a variety of theatrical traditions, such as clowning, pantomime, charades, acrobatics, and vaudeville, Godspell is a groundbreaking and unique reflection on the life of Jesus, with a message of kindness, tolerance, and love.
Directing and choreographing WVPT’s Godspell is Chris Saunders who was a guest artist at BHS last year providing the choreography for Footloose.
Then, from July 11 through July 15 Cole Porter’s classic Anything Goes will be brought to the stage, and the Bridgeport connection for this show is the one that brings us the greatest sense of pride. BHS senior Chiara Pulice will be appearing as an actor, and tap dancing side-by-side with some of the best in the country, and I am certain she will be holding her own every shuffle, hop, step of the way.
The Marvelous Wonderettes, from July 18 through July 22, features classic girl group music from the 50s and 60s and will be directed and choreographed by Chris Saunders with the assistance of his wife Alison Rose Saunders, who also helped Chris with Footloose at BHS.
The vocal and orchestra direction for The Marvelous Wonderettes will be provided by R. J. Nestor, who stays busy as the music director for Ring of Fire, the Johnny Cash musical, that closes the summer season from August 1 through August 5.
Five out of the six shows that West Virginia Public Theatre is producing this summer features either an artistic staff member or a student who is a part of the Bridgeport High School Theatre program.
Now, I am going to securely step out onto a limb here, which if you are familiar with my physical make-up could be a very dangerous place to be, but not on this topic. There is not another high school theatre program in West Virginia that can lay claim to the connection that we have with the state’s premier professional theatre.
I rest my case.
But, if you don’t believe me, or want to test my argument, let me encourage you to take in a show, or all six, at WVPT this summer. I am very careful what I attach my name to, and the things that I publicly recommend, but I have no reservations about this endorsement. A trip to Morgantown this summer to take in any or all of these fun, fast paced, and family friendly shows, will not disappoint. And remember, if you wear your Bridgeport colors, you will fit right in.
Show and ticket information for West Virginia Public Theatre can be found at their website www.wvpublictheatre.org.