Tonight is opening night. The young men and women of the Olympic Heights Community High School have worked very hard, and have put together their production of Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers. I have had the privilege of working with these fine folks, helping them out where I can. I've written about it before, and now we are finished.
I am so incredibly proud of the students in the Olympic Heights theater department. Several weeks ago, I got involved with thier program. They had suffered some cutbacks, and were seeking donations to help them out. Rather than giving them money to rent scenery (as they have done for the past ten years), I offered to help them design and build their own set, paint it, and improve the quality of their tech.
At our first meeting, we sat down and discussed set design - what works on stage and basic design principles. After going through the script, we found what was required by the text, and sketched out the set overview. I took that sketch, and drafted it into AutoCAD. Then we set about building.
Deerfield Builders Supply generously donated much of the material we needed. (Thank you, Mr. Ed Dietrich!) Of the 30 or so students involved with the construction, only four had ever built anything before, and even then not much. I taught the kids how to use miter saws, routers, table saws, screw guns, nail guns, grinders and more. They built the set. They cut the wood. I made sure they used the tools safely, wore proper eye protection, and cut accurately. Once built, the components were assembled, painted, and decorated. Here, you can see the fruits of their labor.
The set was designed to be able to tour. They are hoping to be able to compete in the Florida State Thespian Festival in Tampa, and will need to take their set and assemble it themselves. It all breaks down into small, manageable components, which are easliy carried and reassembled.
I am very proud of these students. Some of them aspire to be medical examiners, lawyers, or doctors, but others hope to have a career in the entertainment industry. All of them learned that they can create what they imagine; that they can do it for themselves. This is why I became involved - to help these students realize their own potential. An encouraging word goes a long way in the mind of a young adult. Sometimes all a person needs is someone to tell them that they can do something, that they are able to achieve their goals. This production is living proof of that. I especially want to credit their teacher, Ms. Kimberly Polewski, whose passion for educating her students is as evident as her love of theater. She goes above and beyond, day after day, giving of her time, money, and talent, to broaden the minds of her students. They are lucky to have her, and I am blessed to have gotten to know and work with her. I also want to credit Mr. Reed Brown, the venue's facility manager. He was also instrumental in helping this production come to be. He has done a great job over the years of maintaining the space and its gear, assuring that there is a place for everything and it is well cared for. This was truly a team effort, and the winners are the students.
This production was selected to compete in the Florida State Thespian Competition! Congratulations to the cast and crew, you all did a great job!