SFS Drama Project’s Oliver! A Huge Success!

Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus, Director of the SFS Drama Project

Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus, Director of the SFS Drama Project

Fresh off a wonderful Spring Break, we are all now gearing up for the infamous “stretch run” of April and May – which usually feels more like an avalanche! But before we look ahead to the ending of another wildly successful year and the graduation of a truly remarkable class, let’s look back a week or two.

Prior to break, the SFS Drama Project wrapped up our spring musical, Oliver! No small feat, this production involved creating three platforms (Go, Jim DeNicola and crew!), learning many DSC_9174complicated songs, a great deal of choreography, assembling an awesome orchestra pit (Go, Bob Bertke!) and renting a ton of costumes and set items – not to mention all the line and blocking memorization! But, ever the troopers, our 50 Middle School students in the show brought it all together to deliver four rousing performances (three of which were sell-outs!). The combination of talent and commitment from all the parties responsible (including our amazing parents!) is always inspiring.

And I can’t recall ever mentioning a cast party in a show recap before, but this one took the cake (no pun intended!). After Arabella Maki made a presentation and thanked all the adults involved in Oliver!, she invited other 8th graders to speak about what SFS drama has meant to them. What followed was about 30 minutes of testimonials that were truly touching, capped off by five 8th grade boys, with arms linked in solidarity, describing how drama has given them self-confidence and a bunch of wonderful memories. It was a moment I won’t soon forget. We ended the cast party with the students singing karaoke versions of the show’s songs – but not ones they were in! It showed that everyone knew all the songs and just how much they supported each other. At 2:55 p.m., the entire cast and crew took to the stage to sing one final giant version of “Food, Glorious Food!” https://youtu.be/aQvhdXd5f5I

Now that’s how we do cast parties at St. Francis! Here are some thoughts from of our graduating drama members:

I think looking back on my SFS drama experience I have grown so much; not only as an actor but as a person. I have become so much more outgoing since I auditioned for the cast of Our Town four years ago. On my last night as Mrs. Sowerberry, I thought about the little girl who stood there four years previously and how far I have come since. In my last show, the cast and I have challenged ourselves tremendously, and I think our hard work has really paid off. I have made such great memories, and I will look back fondly of my time in shows here.”
Lucy Biberman

“I really enjoyed the production of Oliver!. Usually, I’m a little bit more of a fan of the smaller cast plays, because you’re closer with people. But with this play I became friends with a lot of people. And we all came together to make all four plays amazing, because we were like a family. I really liked Oliver! and I’m going to miss it.”
Chris Hammond

“Oliver! was really special to me. In all the plays I’ve been in at St Francis, this was by far my favorite. I really wanted to enjoy it because it was the last one I’d be doing.  I loved being around my classmates, thinking of them less as classmates and more like family. Drama, for the past four years, has been everything to me. I don’t play any school sports, so I have always given it all my time and effort. Not only has drama here given me acting skills, it’s great to have fun with my friends and bond with them. It’s made a big impact on me, and now I know what a good cast party looks like!”
Abby Waggener

“I’ve had so much fun acting in the SFS drama program!  The casts I get to work with, the directors and the enthusiasm everyone puts in is amazing.  The whole experience has made my life richer, and I’m so glad I’ve been a part of it. We, everyone together, are a company of talent and support for one another, making the four shows I’ve acted in the best experience a middle schooler could wish for!”
Chloe Church

“Before attending St. Francis, I did not have the confidence to be in a play like the ones that we have done in the SFS Drama Project.  However, Mr. Gabhart’s and Mr. Church’s confidence in me led to my own confidence, and I am proud to say that I participated in as many shows as I did.  I am so glad that I was able to be a part of the SFS Drama Project, and I will always have fond memories of it.”
Clay Smedley

“The St. Francis drama program, for me, made me more confident as a public speaker, performer, and even quick thinker. I am sure there is no other drama program that is as fun, as well as productive, as the one at St. Francis. Thank you, St. Francis!”
Alan Ziegler

“Ever since 5th grade, I have been acting in the St Francis Drama program and have loved every minute of it. Thanks to our amazing directors, I have been able to participate in plays and experience what it is like to act in front of an audience. I’ll surely miss this.”
Sean Sullivan

The St. Francis drama program has taught me so much. Every year I have tried out for our wonderful plays. I didn’t make it in a few, but as Mr. Gabhart says, “No one loses in drama.” Even as an audience member, I benefited from all the plays. I have so much fun, and I can never stop laughing at all the jokes we share. I think drama is one of the best things at St. Francis. I know I have more confidence in myself. I encourage more students to try out. I have dyslexia. This makes it very hard for me to read. At first it was hard for me to remember my lines, but I kept going, and I loved it. I thought my dyslexia would hold me back from acting, but the directors told me to be myself. Everyone that was involved with any of the plays, thank you all for your hard work.”
Maggie McGraw

I also announced at our cast party that Lon Church has a new title: Associate Director of the Drama Project. This is a title Ed Gupton gave to me many years ago and Lon has certainly earned this through his passion for theater, his gift in imparting it to kids, and his commitment to SFS Drama. And if you didn’t know, he is also the artist who created our wonderful set backdrops the last two years, including the wonderful Victorian London skyline for Oliver! We look forward to many more collaborations together!

And, unfortunately, some of our actors couldn’t attend our cast party, but they had a good reason – they were off to CHINA! In a first-time venture and cross-campus collaboration, six of our Goshen students, Sean Denham, Amelia Dimas, Georges Ghali, Connor Gorman, Carolyn Siegenthaler, and Holly Yelton, traveled to Beijing and Xi’an, China over Spring Break along with 11 Downtown students, Bob Jones and Suzanne Gorman, and some parent chaperones. From all accounts this was a spectacular trip, and our students handled the long flights, delays, and usual travel headaches (including, for five of them, a one-day delay and 30-hour flight/bus odyssey home) like consummate professionals. They took three days of language classes on the campus of North China Electric Power University; visited the Great Wall, Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City, the site of the Terra Cotta warriors and more; haggled in markets; ate delectable cuisine; played pickup basketball with Chinese college students; took two overnight train trips; and practiced their burgeoning Chinese language skills.  Check out the great pictures in this newsletter!