• Students spreading a canopy

      PHS VADA students working on the “Into the Woods” canopy (Photo – Nevada Cruz)

      Imagine being a 17-year-old theatre student working alongside industry professionals to design and perform Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods on a landmark Pasadena stage.

      It will be a dream come true for more than 200 high school students and faculty of the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) who are working with a creative team from Pasadena Playhouse for a production at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on January 26 and 27.

      A Very Special Partnership

      In a landmark partnership, Pasadena Playhouse is collaborating with all four PUSD high schools to present Into The Woods, the lyrically-rich retelling of classic Brothers Grimm fables featuring beloved characters: Cinderella, her Prince, Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf, Jack (his beanstalk, mother, and cow Milky White), and the Witch – who has cast a nasty spell.

      Into the Woods is the opening event for Pasadena Playhouse’s 2023 six-month celebration of Sondheim January 26 through June 11, 2023, which includes two full productions {Sunday in the Park with George and A Little Night Music), concerts by two rising stars, a community choral event, and more. The grand finale will be a special concert by Sondheim muse Bernadette Peters.

      “Students are gaining valuable skills and experience on a professional stage with some of the most respected artists in musical theater in the country,” said Karen Anderson, Coordinator of PUSD’s Arts Education program. “They’re working with vocal coaches, set designers, and tech crews, and they are learning to solve problems creatively, collaborate with new teammates, and articulate complex theoretical concepts. Students are developing confidence in their voices and bodies and growing their social-emotional and communication skills.”

      Students actors and musicians are now in final stages — building costumes and sets, rehearsing lines and music. PUSD teachers are serving as co-directors on the production, collaborating with professional director Fran de Leon.

      Danny Feldman, Producing Artistic Director of Pasadena Playhouse stated, “We couldn’t think of a better way of starting our celebration of Sondheim than by introducing his work to the next generation of theater makers and audiences. This will be an Into the Woods like no other. Thanks to the generous support of so many, we’ll be able to offer the show free for the community.”

      Students dumping dye from a bucket

      Muir costume students (Photo – Courtney Scrabeck)

      Student and faculty participation

      The all-star musical is a culmination of PUSD’s performing arts programs, which includes exposure to and practice in drama, dance, instrumental music, and vocal music starting in preschool.  PUSD students are participating as actors, musicians, technical crew, and costume and scenic designers. The student cast and crew members come from four high schools: Pasadena HS, Marshall HS, Blair HS and John Muir Early College Magnet.

      PUSD students and teachers are participating in this amazing project in many ways:

      ACTING: Students auditioned for placement in performance tracks. The casting of Into the Woods was expanded to include a choral ensemble and additional speaking roles. Understudies also are included.

      ORCHESTRA: Under the direction of a professional music director/conductor, student musicians nominated by their respective schools are learning and performing the production score.

      TECH CREW: During the production, students will serve on the crew of the deck, costume, and prop departments under professional crew heads, gaining first-hand experience of a professional theater backstage environment.

      COSTUMES: A student costuming class is designing and building the costumes for Into the Woods to gain further understanding of costume considerations in a professional setting.

      SCENIC DESIGN/PROJECTIONS: Student artists are learning about storytelling through scenic design, and they are assisting in the design, scenic painting and/or projection design of Into the Woods.

      TEACHER PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Opportunities are abundant in this hands-on experience, side by side with working professionals. Each high school teacher focused on one of the production areas:  Theater Tech, Costume, Visual Design, and Directing/Music Directing.

      All PUSD students in grades 4-8 will enjoy matinees of the Into the Woods on January 26 & 27 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

      Scott Phelps compiled this article from PUSD staff, parents and student sources.

      collage of students working on stage

      (Photos – Alicia Gorecki)

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      1. Jessica Meehan says:

        Love this!

      2. Vicki Knight says:

        Waverly Knight is a Stage Manager from Marshall. Proud grandparents.

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