How would you describe Stage Right! to those that are unfamiliar?
Founded in Greensburg in 1998 by Tony Marino, Renata Marino, and Christine M. Rizk (deceased), Stage Right! originally strived to be a training ground for musical theatre students aged 8-18 and led by working artists in the field of theatre.
This year, Stage Right! is celebrating its 21st birthday. Equity actors with more than 25 years of experience, we have used their experiences to bring dozens of professional artists and performers to teach and mentor Stage Right!'s 250+ students each year. Stage Right!'s Equity Theatre Company allows students to work alongside these professionals, giving them the opportunity to learn while doing. Stage Right! has invited into its classrooms and stages the likes of George Dvorsky, Lenora Nemetz, Matt Stocke, Allan Snyder, and Claudia Benack - to name just a few of the incredible artists who have become a part of the Stage Right family.
Tell us more about opportunities for students to get involved.
We are a proud partner with Propel Schools with two teaching teams helping their young scholars learn more about musical theatre. In addition to our school for the Performing Arts and Theatre Company, we also have a Student Company, which performs five fully produced shows a year. Another important Stage Right! Program is the Spectrum Theatre Initiative, a class and performance group for children and young adults on the spectrum and with all-abilities.
Our Arts in Education classes bring together 75 home and cyber-schooled students to produce two shows a year. Stage Right Sensations is a 50-member audition group that performs 50 shows a year. Finally, Books Come Alive is a year round series of small children's theatre shows based on best-loved children's books and stories. This program performs 180 times a year at local schools, libraries and outreach facilities.
And our "Dreams Come Alive Princess Parties" bring your favorite singing princesses to your party, and during this time of quarantine we've even had the princesses pay visits to little ones through Zoom.
The crew of Stage Right's "Dreams Come Alive" Party Royalty. Photo by Doug Estok.
Because of COVID-19, arts and cultural organizations are being forced to operate in more creative ways. What creative solutions has Stage Right used to engage with its students? Can new students get involved?
The day the Governor closed businesses and schools, we were online two days later with Zoom classes for our students. Me and my staff of seven teachers felt that keeping a routine going was key to making the classes successful and giving the kids the sense of normalcy that they desperately needed.
We now have 22 classes available in everything from jazz, tap, ballet, and acting to fitness, voice, and music theory. We put the codes for the ZOOM meetings on our Facebook everyday so new students can try a class, just like we do when we're not social distancing.
In that time, we've produced two online cabarets, one where students sent taped performances and another where 30 people performed live (that was actually a breeze strangely enough). Every week we discuss how classes are going, brainstorm to make the experience better and help each other find new strategies to make the experience as good as we can for the kids.
Some fun things we've done are Tap and Jazz challenges where the kids tape themselves doing the combination they learned and send it to us to post on social media. We've had master classes with Broadway performer Lori Marinacci and local Equity Actor and Stage Right! grad Alex Noble. We are also planning to adapt one of our library shows to Zoom for parents with younger children.
Are you performing virtually right now? How can we watch?
What's coming up for Stage right in 2020 or 2021?
We have a full slate of theatre coming up! At the Palace Theatre we have planned "Annie" in November. Some other titles are being delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Plus, of course, classes and our regular programs will continue. If everything clears up, we were hoping to launch our new "Storybook Theatre Company" that had six full-length performances of children's theatre shows (Stuart Little, Peter and Wendy and Alice in Wonderland) scheduled to perform in theatres in Irwin, Ligonier, and Johnstown. We'll see what happens.
We all need support right now. How can arts patrons support Stage Right! during and after the quarantine?
What we all need is the support to keep us "whole" now, so we can be there for the community when this is over. But that is obviously something that is limited at this time. A lot of people don't have it to give; those that can give - please do.
More importantly, when this is over - that's when we need you! Wear masks and gloves and sit far apart, but we're going to need you in our theatres, concert halls, galleries, and all the spaces artists create. That is when we're going to need you.