Like many high school theatre programs, PHS has been hit hard by the Coronavirus-- they've had to cancel the final performance of their spring run of Guys and Dolls (Playbill here), and curtail efforts to expand technology and design opportunities for students.
Between losing ticket sales for Guys and Dolls and paying for equipment rentals (the school does not have their own lighting and sound equipment), the program needs your support.
The Palmyra Area High School Musical Theatre Program is supported by the PHS Musical Boosters, a 501(c)3 organization. Productions are funded through ticket sales and fundraising, and staffing is handled by two district provided stipends and an army of volunteers. Our "army" is as committed as our students. Costumes, lighting, set production, fundraisers and "other duties as assigned" are just a few of their areas of expertise.
As schools in PA usually do not have theatre as a class, rehearsals and sessions are held outside of the regular school day.
The PHS Musical has grown to be a year-round theatre education program providing instruction in acting, singing, blocking, choreography, stage craft, confidence, communication, leadership, and more. In addition to supporting the high school’s spring production, the PHS Musical provides theatrical instruction to all ages, including the Gold Star Musical Theatre Camp for elementary and middle school students, community script reads, and the exploration of new theatrical works.
Over the past decade, student participation in our theatre program has increased over 40%. The musical theatre program involves nearly 10% of the students at the high school level. This program has a "no-cut" policy and works to seek a meaningful place for each student's involvement. Inclusivity remains a focus, encouraging participation by students from all ranges of cognitive, socioeconomic, and diverse backgrounds. This provides opportunities for students and creates a community of empathy and understanding.
In addition to the annual production, the program incorporates a variety of student and community educational events including:
- An annual educational focus determined by director and student input. Examples include comedic timing, diction, advanced dance techniques like the waltz and swing, stage combat, accent work, wellness, and more.
- A chapter of the International Thespian society. In their first year, the program made it possible for students to attend and compete at the state conference. In the second year, the number of students attending doubled; and, in the third year, students presented a mainstage production.
- An elementary summer camp for grades 1-8 (recently expanded to include middle-school) instructed by staff and high school members.
- A community script read and talk back program focusing on pieces unlike those we produce at the high school level.
- Dedicated service projects in the community, and specifically with The Caring Cupboard, the local food pantry.
- Performance opportunities to challenge the students, including the Winter Cabaret, singing valentines, monologue contest, and a 10-minute play competition.
- Increased Attendance: 2,400 Patrons for the Spring Production of Legally Blonde: The Musical and an audience of 550 for the one-night only 2019 Winter Cabaret.
- Instructional Training: Vulnerability, Hair & Make Up Application, advanced choreography techniques in waltz, swing, and hip-hop, stage combat, comedic timing, diction, accent work, monologue delivery, and audition techniques.
- Introduction of New Theatrical Works: Students are conducting a staged reading of a new play written by a 1992 graduate of Palmyra Area High School and working with the creators of the Broadway musical Amélie to pilot the high school version.
- Apollo Award Recognition: Last year’s production received nominations for Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Orchestra, Honorable Mention for Outstanding Supporting Actress, and a WIN for for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical.
- In 2018, director Jasmine Bucher received an Honorable Mention for the 2018 Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre Education.
Amelie: High School Edition (Playbill here)
Starting in the late spring and following through the summer of 2019, the PHS Musical Program partnered with the creators of the 2017 Broadway musical Amélie and Concord Theatricals on a special pilot production. The musical was adapted for high school performers, and Palmyra presented the show in September of 2019. The pilot process has allowed Concord Theatricals to fine-tune the script, music, and materials.
Throughout the process, students have provided input on content changes, key alterations, and orchestration needs. This type of access to the creative process is a rare experience and has been an integral part of their theatre education.
In addition to the mid-September performances, the school performed Amélie: High School Edition as part of two additional events. The students performed the show with the assistance of a sign-language interpreter for Palmyra's Great Give, a community day of giving. The company also performed Amélie: High School Edition as the opening production of the Pennsylvania State Thespian Conference in January of 2020.
During the Spring of 2020, students will be working to refine Amélie: High School Edition with additional and revised content based on feedback provided by the Palmyra cast, staff, and community. This content includes three new songs, additional narration, and structural changes.
Musical director Jasmine Bucher (Director of Educational Technology, Lebanon Valley College) is looking to expand student learning opportunities in theatre technology and design. PHS does not own necessary lighting or sound equipment for this expansion, which would highlight and develop practical career opportunities for even more Palmyra students.