Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Highlands Drama Program Taking the Next Step
The drama program at Highlands has undergone quite a transformation over the past couple of years. This transformation goes beyond the new and expanded facilities that include the new backstage auditorium transformation that was a big part of the $15 million High School building renovation (a good synopsis of the designs and pictures of the High School renovation can be found here). Video footage of the facilities can be found from this past segment of KET Road Trip that featured Highlands High School.
This transformation has also included a new head man and driving force behind the drama programs and whose influence has expanded beyond the and now reaches into and to the larger community.
Jason Burgess comes to Fort Thomas three years removed from being a professional actor, designer, and director in the Cincinnati area where he worked with Playhouse in the Park, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Ovation Theatre Company, and New Edgecliff Theatre among others.
A key component of the transformation of the drama program also started tonight with the kickoff of "Standing Room Only" - a booster club for the drama program. Getting engagement in a deeper way from parents and arts supporters is the next step in Jason's vision for the drama program. To find out a little more about this vision I had a chance to catch up with Jason for a little Q and A and here is what he had to say:
Question - What are your key goals for the drama department at Highlands?
My key goals are to open the students eyes to new works that they are not familiar with. I also want them to experience things outside of their comfort zone and really challenge themselves. I want them to be able to experience things that they haven’t been able to experience up to this point. Right now I can only focus on the season at Highlands so a lot of my ideas are not being implemented right now because there isn’t the time in my schedule to coordinate and facilitate.
Question - I have heard that you are also organizing a booster group for the drama department. How do you plan to use this group and what are your biggest funding needs?
My plan for this group is to help me with implementation and communication of new ideas and opportunities. I want to take the high school students to New York over fall break but I need help in researching the trip and fund raising for students who may want to go but cannot afford it. I want to take students to a Thespians conference for high school students in Nebraska in June that let’s them work and play with other theatre students. I want to do more shows at the high school. I want to offer workshops. I could go on and on and on.
I really think this group can support and spread the word of the possibilities of this theatre program. Right now I feel that we are not a theatre program, we are a school that puts on some theatrical shows. I want us to be a theatre program where the students have opportunities all year long to participate in theatrical activities.
My biggest funding need is for the students to take place and participate in some of the activities. We are fortunate that we do not a new facility because we have the greatest facilities imaginable. Our work spaces are amazing but it is the program itself that now needs the renovation.
Question - The city of Fort Thomas plans to be completed with the new amphitheater in Tower Park soon. Do you see a role for this facility in future performances for the or Middle School?
Yes! Absolutely! I think it would be great to start or build a summer theatre season in a different atmosphere. It would be great to get people involved in something new and different. I was a part of a program when grew up that did shows in an amphitheater and it was a huge success. I think the possibilities are endless.
Question - Assuming you are not from the area, how does the Fort Thomas community and the school district differ from your past experiences? How would you compare the communities support for High School drama?
The biggest difference in my opinion is the parental support. It truly is unparalleled. I am amazed that when I have a problem and I send out an email or a phone call that I get responses almost immediately. Parents help out in droves in this area. There are some many other schools that I know where they have to beg and plead for the parents to just come to the shows nonetheless help out with them!
I would say that the communities support for the high school drama program is ok. I think in this day and age it is difficult. You are competing against so many things. Outdoor events, movies, finances, etc. it is just difficult. I would love to get to a point where we are averaging 500 to 600 people a performance. Right now we are only averaging around 300 to 350 a performance. So I will continue to spread the word and I am hoping that this new theatre parent group will help as well because these kids truly deserve the support. They are doing some amazing things onstage and I just want everyone to see it and be amazed what we have here in Ft. Thomas!