I often think about the day in September my daughters came home from school filled with excitement and announced “We both got parts in the play, Mom!”
Wow! I thought. Their first year at auditioning for the program and they both got roles. I thought I could not be more proud…..but I was wrong.
Approximately six months later and after some 60 or so rehearsals, the Kuss Middle School Theater Arts Program performed “Oliver” three times over the weekend of February 3. I am almost ashamed to admit it, but I didn’t know how amazing and beautiful my daughter’s voice was until that first night of the performance.
These young performers are some of the most talented and dedicated people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I will confess that I cried at every performance because each one just “took my breath away.” It was then that I began thinking just how important this theater arts program is, not just for the students but for the parents, the teachers, the orchestra, the volunteers and all those involved.
The Kuss Theater Program was begun in 2006 by Charles Jodion, and it is currently the only middle school theater program in Fall River.
Eric Spencer, the school’s current director, explained, “The program improves teamwork, study skills, self-confidence, and provides a sense of family.”
Yes, I thought, this had all been evident as I watched the many months of late night rehearsals, witnessed the constant enjoyment my daughters shared with the rest of the cast and crew.
“Encouragement is the key. Try to push them and just see what develops,” he said.
It is slightly easier to “fit” more students into a musical than a standard play, and Spencer encourages anyone who is interested to take the chance and audition. You do not need to have a specific special talent to get a role in a play.
“Oliver! was the largest cast ever in the Kuss Theater Program,” he said, “with a total of 43 cast members.”
How is it funded?
“Most of the program is self-funded through car washing, advertising sales, ticket sales, and concerts,” Spencer explained, “Unfortunately, far too much of the program depends on these things, rather than community funding.”
The students. their parents and friends make the theater program possible. Support from the wider community is needed.
“With the economy the way it is right now, it is difficult for small businesses to offer financial support,” he admitted, but added, “If seventy percent of the funding came from the community, it would be the ideal situation.”
Spencer also stressed that none of this would even be possible without the outstanding support of Kuss Middle School principal Nancy Mullen.
On Saturday, April 28, Kuss Middle School will be the host site for the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild One Act play festival, open to all schools in Massachusetts and consists of one-act, 40 minute plays, judged by theater professionals.
This year, the Kuss Theater Program will be performing Scheherazade, written by students and based on the Tales of Arabian Nights. Tickets will be on sale at the door for $10 and it starts at 9 a.m. For more information on the festival, please visit www.metg.org.
Of all the awards the school has won, Spencer said he’s most proud of “the Stage Manager’s Award, which is awarded to the school with the most professionalism and courtesy.