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Letter: Onstage Risks and Rewards

To the Editor:

The Valley News recently reported on the North Country Community Theater’s production of Rent, appreciating the risk NCCT took in moving away from family shows and tackling more adult themes (“A Shift Away From Family-Friendly Fare,” Dec. 5.) I also applaud NCCT’s decision. Without risk, art becomes stale.

In a similar vein, I would like to celebrate the risk taken by The Sharon Academy in the recent production of the musical In the Heights. Each year, the school pauses in its academic work to spend two weeks in mid-November to stage a musical. Every student in the school is involved in some fashion — from designing and building the set, putting together the program, choreographing the show, conducting or playing in the band, acting, singing, dancing, directing, costumes, props, make-up, lights and sound. It is a two-week total-immersion course in real-life problem-solving.

In the Heights was a particularly challenging choice . Set in a Latino district of New York City (Washington Heights), the show features rap and contemporary music with complex harmonies and syncopated rhythms. The production was the Vermont premier of this Tony Award-winning musical, and the pianist/conductor of the national tour, Kurt Crowley, traveled from New York to work with the students for a day.

The results were magical. Students from area schools watched the dress rehearsals on Thursday; performances on Friday and Saturday were sold out or nearly so. Over 1,100 people enjoyed the culmination of this wonderful effort at Chandler Hall in Randolph.

In a world where “education” too often means teaching to a standardized test, it is heartening to see a school engage in something larger. The Sharon Academy took a risk in turning over a project of this magnitude to its students. The students took lots of risks, operating outside their comfort zones for most of the two weeks. But the sense of community forged by shared effort and shared success will linger with these students for many years. It did indeed, as the school’s mission statement pledges, “awaken students to their immense potential and the difference they can make in the world.”

Rob Anderegg

Member, TSA Board of Directors

Hartland

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