This past weekend, students from Pasadena high schools had the rare opportunity to perform the Stephen Sondheim musical, “Into the Woods” to a sold-out Pasadena Civic Auditorium. The production was a collaboration between the Pasadena Playhouse and the Pasadena Unified School District, and was the kickoff to the Playhouse’s celebration in commemoration of Mr. Sondheim, who died last year. The show was a roaring success and exemplified exactly the type of projects we should see more of in Pasadena.
By Caitlin Wheeler
First, Into the Woods was a collaborative production between PUSD and the Pasadena Playhouse, with theater professionals working with and advising the students through every aspect of production. Pasadena has such a wealth of cultural institutions, and I’d love to see more collaborations of this nature with Pasadena public schools.
Second, every fourth through seventh grader in the district had the opportunity to see this show during a matinee performance. So many of them had never seen any live theater and they were into it! I hope this lights the spark in these kids for a lifetime love of the arts!
Third, the production was a collaboration among all four main high schools in the Pasadena Unified School District. The cast, the crew, and the orchestra represented Blair, Pasadena High School, Muir, and Marshall, and instead of the competition that circumstances often demand from these school communities, these kids came together to make something great. The students working on the show all developed a close bond. It’s amazing to see the wider community being built, and students building relationships outside of their home school.
Fourth, the high schools also shared resources in spaces and faculty and staff. In an environment like PUSD, sharing resources among the schools seems like the smart thing to do. Jessica Volpi and Monica Benson from Blair’s music and theater program were the director and vocal director; Heather King from Marshall led the orchestra; Courtney Scrabeck and Micol Celeste from Muir worked with the Mustang Design Lab to design and make all the costumes; and PHS Visual Arts Academy designed and built the sets (and provided rehearsal space). A huge thank you to the faculty and staff who put in so much extra time and effort to benefit all of these schools!
Finally, the production was fantastic and made PUSD look great. The accomplishments of students in our public schools, which don’t have PR teams and budgets for recruiting, often go unrecognized, and it would be easy to think that these students aren’t doing much. Anyone who saw this show now knows that’s not true in the slightest. The amount of talent and hard work displayed on that stage was amazing. The show is a difficult one, but the cast and crew and orchestra and costumes absolutely shined and rivaled professional productions (though that may be a little bit of proud parent speaking).
We need more of this! More opportunities to support and celebrate our public school programs and our public school students. Great things are happening in PUSD!
Caitlin Wheeler is a proud PUSD parent and an attorney living in Pasadena.
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