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home : features : people of faith

6/9/2011 3:25:00 AM
The play's the thing at Spa Catholic
KEVIN KORTRIGHT AS Schroeder and Lauren Fogerty as Lucy in Spa Catholic's
KEVIN KORTRIGHT AS Schroeder and Lauren Fogerty as Lucy in Spa Catholic's "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." (Angela Cave photo)
AHN duo makes musicals
Michael and Rosemary Edwards, married for 49 years, have directed 37 shows together at Academy of the Holy Names in Albany.

It's hard for them to choose favorites: "They're all our favorites right after we do them," Mrs. Edwards joked.

She prefers some musicals for their orchestral richness. Since AHN is a girls' school, the duo selects shows that feature only female parts for the lower school and mostly female parts for the upper school, so they sometimes do the same productions over again.

"It's a hard job," Mr. Edwards said.

Buying the rights to a show can cost $1,500 to $2,000, for example; but parent volunteers and the booster club help the performances turn a profit for AHN.

Casting is important, too. Anyone who auditions in fourth- through eighth-grade receives a part; this year's production of "The Aristocats" featured 47 girls.

"You don't put somebody where they don't belong," Mr. Edwards noted. "The worst thing you can ever do is put a child where they can't perform."

The two directors, a choreographer and two vocal teachers audition girls from the upper school and boys from other schools in the area.

"You want somebody who can sustain a part," Mr. Edwards said. "Some people are very good for one song, but they can't go a whole show. Casting is key. If you cast well, your job is much easier."

Many AHN alumni have appeared in off-Broadway shows or have done costume or set design work on Broadway - but the Edwards' goal extends beyond molding successful actors.

"The most important thing is that they get confidence and they're able to do public speaking," Mrs. Edwards said. "It just rounds out their lives."

The choreographers ensure that every child dances. "They're never just standing up there singing a song," said Mrs. Edwards. "There's no back row on stage. That makes them feel special."

Mr. and Mrs. Edwards received a lifetime achievement award from the Academy of the Holy Names this year. Mrs. Edwards is a graduate and a retired AHN teacher; Mr. Edwards is a retired teacher and state worker.

Mr. Edwards predicted: "We plan to keep going until somehow we stop."


When two live bats flew into the performance space during a Saratoga Central Catholic High School musical last year, Sophia Lessard thought it was the work of a heckler.

"I thought it was a shoe," giggled Sophia, a junior who acted in the musical.

"They were swooping around in the gym during the play," recalled Gabriella Gurney, a freshman who participated in the production of "Cindy," an adaption of Cinderella, as a middle-schooler. "Our science teacher caught them with a butterfly net."

Mishaps and moments of humor are a natural part of rehearsing and performing school plays. During the "Cindy" production, actors filled seven minutes with improvisational comedy when a peer missed a cue.

This spring at the Spa Catholic middle school musical, a tall 13-year-old's cane prop knocked into an overhead microphone and blew out the sound system - or, at least, "we think that's what it was. We heard this pop and the system went out," said Pat Douglass, choir and drama teacher at the school since September.

A 14-year-old sound technician took a couple of minutes to fix the problem. "The kids all started laughing on stage; and the parents did, too," Ms. Douglass recalled.

During a production at Academy of the Holy Names in Albany, a parent volunteer served as a prop, holding up a piece of broken scenery for half an hour.

But "nobody else knew it," said Rosemary Edwards, musical director.

"We don't have very many mishaps," chimed in her husband, Michael, who directs the plays.

"Once they get to that first night, they're so smooth and they're so disciplined, it's amazing," Mrs. Edwards boasted of the students.

The confidence level of the young actors at Spa Catholic is equally high. Before performances, sophomore Kevin Kortright gets "a really excited feeling - never nervous," he said.

Kevin compared performing to talking to a friend: "It's like someone you haven't seen in a long time."

Kevin has acted in every play since he was in sixth grade and every musical since his eighth-grade year. He usually gathers a group to sing a campfire song before shows to practice enunciating. A few of them sing the "Pokemon" theme song to stir up excitement.

This spring, Kevin played Schroeder in the Spa Catholic production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."

"The more I delve into Schroeder," he told The Evangelist before the show, "the more I find myself in him. He is who he is and he doesn't care what anybody else thinks."

Ms. Douglass cast 11 actors in the musical, but she doesn't usually turn people away because the school is so small. Sophia recalled, for her audition, preparing a few bars from another musical, reading lines from different characters and learning a small dance routine.

"I thought it was pretty fun because it was just me and my friends," said Sophia, who played Sally Brown.

The actors think Ms. Douglass knows what she's doing; after all, she helped found the Adirondack School of Northeastern New York and has taught for 34 years.

"She's so into it, it's hard not to get into it also," said Gabriella, who played Marcy in "Charlie Brown."

Practices run twice a week for three months so students can participate in other activities. Matt Reichel, a sophomore who played Linus, also participates in mock trial, the "green club" and a community service club.

He started acting last year. "My mom said, 'Join the musical,'" Matt explained. "I loved it and thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. There's nothing better than doing something you love to do with people you like to hang out with."

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