When it comes to advocating on behalf of a cause, the phrase “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” is usually the first thing that pops into my mind.
For me lately, that squeaky wheel has been Peninsula High parent Michelle Burr.
That label isn’t a bad thing — it shows her passion. I always try to make time to chat with those who take the time to call me, send me an email or approach me at an event. I believe that is what community newspapers are all about.
Burr called me a few times over the course of about a month on behalf of the theater and drama program at Peninsula. She and many in the theater/drama programs had major concerns over the condition of the school’s auditorium. I went out there last week to have a look.
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There was talk of broken seats that prevented families from sitting together during a show, high-dollar lights that didn’t shine quite so bright as in year’s past, students having to pay for their production costumes and a sound system that is on its last legs.
“We found out just how many needs there were,” Burr said.
Now we all know the district’s financial situation when it comes to capital projects and building new buildings or doing full-blown renovations: Nothing will likely materialize until a high-dollar bond is passed. Despite the somewhat bleak and unknown future, Burr and fellow parent Cheryl Graff joined forces with students in the program to start a Volunteer Parent Organization to oversee contributions made to the program. Students in the program, including Burr’s daughter Megan, a sophomore, started brainstorming ideas and setting short- and long-term goals for fundraising and accomplishing projects.
Many of the short-term projects have not only the goal of fixing the auditorium but also shining a spotlight on the program to showcase the level of excellence it upholds when it comes to the product on stage, Burr told me, making sure I took note of the 5th Avenue Theater awards the program received in Outstanding Lobby Display for “Aida” and a nomination for Best Choreography as well.
The program has also taken pride in the fact it can attract a wide variety of students from different walks of life — yes, even athletes are coming out to showcase their stuff.
“You see a side of (students) in theater you don’t see other places at the school,” Burr said. “There’s not a negative stigma (attached to theater) like there was many years ago.”
The program has worked wonders for Graff’s daughter, Madie, a sophomore, who had a lead role in “Snow Queen” in January. Normally shy and somewhat reserved, she didn’t tell her mother she had the lead role in the production. The reality set in for Graff and her husband as the production neared intermission and Madie had already spent a long time on stage.
“In one semester (in the program), she came out of her shell in a big way,” Graff said of her daughter.
Since the VPO has been formed, parent after parent has volunteered to help in one form or another.
“It has been a transformation that has been great to be involved in,” Graff said.
Students are already putting the plan into action by selling popcorn donated from the Galaxy Theatre at upcoming shows, designing sponsored slide shows with businesses’ logos printed on them during intermission, and selling donated flower bouquets after shows for audience members to purchase to give to their thespian.
Students love the fact someone is showing an interest in what they are doing, Burr said. And she knows there is a passion for theater out in the community in the form of donors who would like to contribute to the VPO.
“Theater people are wacky about keeping theater alive,” Burr said.
All that squeaking coming out of the program produced a great result late last week: Burr found out the district was kicking in $10,000 to replace some of the lighting in preparation for “Les Miserable,” which premieres at 7 p.m. May 5.
In the meantime, the group will continue to fix things as they go while dreaming about a future that includes new paint, carpet, a lighting system and new patron seating.
Because the show must go on.