It appears that this fall a dramatic play will be performed for the first time in four years at Riverside-Brookfield High School.
This summer a group of parents and current and former students organized the Bring Back RBHS Theater group to lobby for the restoration of the fall play which has not been performed since 2010 due to budget cuts in the wake of a failed referendum in 2011.
At last week’s District 208 school board meeting, parents and students extolled the benefits of theater and lamented the lack of theatrical opportunities.
Two of the lead organizers of the group, Shelia Daily and Ellen Dunn met with District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis and Principal Kristin Smetana the day before the school board meeting.
At the school board meeting, Daily gave a 13-minute presentation stressing the benefits of theater for students and noted that the school’s offerings are sadly lacking when compared to other local high schools.
When Daily the mother of two theatrically minded daughters, finished speaking, Skinkis said that he recognized the value of high school theater, admitting he had participated in a theater production at his high school, Nazareth Academy.
“We really need to take a serious look at bringing back the fall play,” said Skinkis. “It is very traditional that you would have a fall play, which would appeal to students who have more of an interest in acting.”
The last non-musical play produced at RBHS was The Good Doctor in 2010.
If a dramatic play is not performed during the upcoming school year, this year’s seniors would be the first class in recent memory to go through their entire high school careers without having the chance to participate in a drama.
The school has produced spring musicals the last two years. In the 2011-12 school year, the leaders of the Riverside Theater Guild put on the musical Li’l Abner with a mostly RBHS cast, but that was not an official school production.
Skinkis said he will try to find money in the budget to fund two stipends for a director and an assistant director for a fall play.
“We think that there is some opportunity to bring back the one or two stipends that were previously cut from the fall play, so we’re going to propose something to board here in August,” Skinkis told the Landmark.
Daily was happy to get a positive response from Skinkis.
“I was pretty relieved that he immediately reacted so positively with bringing back the fall play,” Daily said.
But Daily said that she and her group will not be satisfied with just the return of the fall play. She and others in her group say RBHS needs to build up its course offerings in acting and theater and recruit teachers who are passionate, qualified and willing to direct theatrical productions.
RBHS has lacked a teacher who specializes in theater and acting since a part-time teacher was laid off in 2011.
“We are really lacking leadership and experienced faculty when it comes to drama,” Annabelle Daily, Shelia Daily’s daughter and a senior at RBHS, told the school board. “Our theater department needs to be brought back and built up. It’s want the kids want, it’s what the parents want, it’s what the community wants. We need drama at RB just as much as we need sports, clubs and other extracurriculars.”
Students spoke of how disappointed they were to come to RBHS and find out how the theater program had been cut after the defeat of the referendum. Some said they had performed in sophisticated productions at L.J. Hauser Junior High School and thought that high school theater would be even better.
“Learning that we would only have one show a year at my high school really made me upset,” said junior Abby Schwarz. “I’m also an athlete … but the rush that I get from winning a swim meet or a water polo game doesn’t even compare to the rush I get on stage where just everyone’s applauding and it’s the final number.”
The students reminded the school board members that they get only one shot at high school and want the chance to participate in theater during their high school careers.
“We only get a couple of chances to perform and we want to perform as much as we can, because this is what we are so, so passionate about,” Annabelle Daily said.