Ten years ago, St. Bernadette Church staged its first production of its Summer Theatre Program. Audience members crowded into a tight space at the church void of air-conditioning and struggled to get a clear view of the stage as a result of the flat seating. Nonetheless, the cast of about 18 performed "Godspell" and showcased their talents and hard work.
Since that first production, cast size has more than doubled and the performances have moved into the more modern and accommodating Garwood Whaley Auditorium at Bishop Ireton High School.
"This is our third year at Bishop Ireton," said producer Bill Molino, who has worked with the program since its commencement. "Since our first show 10 years ago we have grown by leaps and bounds. At St. Bernadette, audience members had to shift in their seats to get a good view, and here there isn’t a bad seat in the house."
Production for this year's play, "Fiddler on the Roof," began in May. "We recruit from area schools by sending a letter to their theater departments every spring," said Molino. The majority of cast members have either participated in previous years or heard about the program through friends and family.
No one who auditioned was turned away, making the experience open to any and all students who have an interest in theater. This year's cast of 47 is comprised of students from seven area schools who have dedicated their entire summer vacations to putting together a quality show. "Since the end of school, we have been meeting nearly everyday for rehearsals," said Andrew Ferguson, a rising sophomore at Bishop Ireton.
The experience gave the students a chance to meet other area teenagers with a similar passion for theater. "It has been a lot of hours, but such a great experience and definitely worth all of the hard work," said Julie Ryan, vice president of the Bishop Ireton drama club.
THURSDAY, JULY 27, was opening night and the first of four performances, the last of which was on Sunday evening with proceeds from the cost of admission going to St. Bernadette Church.
"Each night so far, we have had a big audience, probably close to 200 people," said cast member Katie Charles. Friends and family of cast members along with patrons of St. Bernadette Church were eager to show their support for the cast and crew. The Sunday matinee gave families an opportunity to bring young children to the show and watch the performance that seemed fit for Broadway.
Many past participants in the St. Bernadette Summer Theatre Program have continued to show their support and involvement through the years. "One of the greatest things about this program is that a lot of our current staff was once in the cast," said Molino. "They have graduated and gone on to college and have returned to direct."
Through continued support from participants and the community, St. Bernadette hopes to celebrate many more anniversaries in the future.