Union High Bands: The Right Support

Every band program should have a booster club like the Union Bands Parents Club. At a time when cash-strapped and time-challenged students and musical directors are scrambling to raise money for performances and competitions, the UBPC takes care of everything.

“Parents in the booster club run the events entirely,” said Charles Pisarra, Union High’s Director of Bands / Assistant Director of Fine Arts. “The chairperson of the club has people volunteer for various responsibilities, especially for big events. Leadership and technology allow us to ensure the events are enjoyable for the performers involved, are safe for performers and audience members, and making sure people want to come back.”

Pisarra noted that the UBPC has grown immensely over the past four years: “It’s large and makes over a million dollars, annually. It's incorporated and runs very similarly to a company, with a president to which a segment of leaders report. There's a COO and a CFO.” Leaders for the booster club are primarily elected, with 16-20 of the positions voted on and another 10 or so are appointed. Overall, the UBPC has “become extremely organized, serious and hardworking when it comes to hosting high-quality events; and serious about caring for the students so the directors can focus on teaching the best they possibly can.”

Pisarra is in a unique position to notice these things, having spent more than 30 years in Tulsa’s Union Public Schools - first as a student and now as a teacher. “I came on full time in 2006 as the percussion specialist until 2013.” In 2014 Pisarra was promoted to lead Director of Bands. “Being a percussion specialist came with a lot of work and detail,” remarked Pisarra, “whereas being a director comes with more responsibility, oversight and accountability.”

It’s a big responsibility. The program has 1,100 students in all. The Marching Band alone contains 250 students; then there are 325 in high school bands (9-12), 65 students in the Color Guard, about 40 percussionists at the high school level and about 45 in the jazz bands.

In addition, there’s been a massive restructuring of the band program. “For decades,” said Pisarra, “every student in the band program was also in the marching band.” This caused a lot of stress over time and money challenges. “But three years ago, Union changed to a ‘Year-round Concert Band’ structure. This meant all wind and percussion students can be in one of the six concert bands during the school day and then can choose to participate in the marching band in addition. Making this switch has allowed the program to retain more students. And,” he added, “students have been playing better since they are now able to focus on basic music skills in the classroom, year-round.”

Each year, Union’s Marching Band, also known as the Renegade Regiment, performs at up to eight football games, and participates in anywhere between five and seven competitive performances. “The Union High School Marching Band is an 11-time BOA (Band of America) Grand National Finalist,” said Pisarra. “They've also been in numerous parades: Fiesta Bowl Parade in Phoenix, Orlando Citrus Parade, Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade, and Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.” (In fact, the Renegade Regiment has been invited to perform at the 2020 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.)

Travel, uniforms, instruments - it’s a lot of fees to keep track of. “Booster parents help organize and track individual student fundraisers,” said Pisarra, “and ensure they're running smoothly. This model works because it allows students and families to choose how they want to pay these fees. They can either pay out-of-pocket, or work hard to fund raise and pay fees that way.

“We do our best to provide opportunities for students to pay less out-of-pocket through fundraising.” he added. No opportunity is overlooked, from fundraisers, sponsorships and donations to merchandising and even Amazon SMILE donations. “The core purpose behind the booster club is hosting great events, as well as taking care of students, supporting band directors, fundraisers. Hosting world-class events coming first is in our DNA.”

One of the greatest events for the marching band takes place at home. The Renegade Review Invitational is a spotlight event. A Tulsa tradition, Pisarra noted, “It's been going strong for the last 36 years. Everyone from students to parents, teachers and staff, are passionate about hosting this event.” (The next Review is slated to be held at Union’s Tuttle Stadium on October 12, 2019.) Typically, the event features top bands from Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma. “It features a panel of adjudicators (in the BOA format) and a slate of amazing marching bands.”

Meanwhile, Union’s school band program has six concert bands, two jazz bands and many percussion ensembles, involved in up to a dozen events each year. Many of those are held throughout the year at the 2,000 Performing Arts Center. “It's a concert hall and a multi-purpose performing arts center, with a full balcony. When it was built 40 years ago, it was the biggest in the area, and thankfully it has been maintained very well.”

Ludus generally tickets for up eight bands, which cover 6th through 12 graders. While most of campus concerts aren’t ticketed, Union Bands tickets the larger public events like the Renegade Review, Marching Band Championship, and WGI Winter Guard Regionals. “We have a small core of volunteers,” said Pisarra, who make sure the event is poised for success.” He points to Marjorie Hall, who works with ticketing. She started using Ludus because it interfaces with Charms and finds it advantageous for both general and assigned seating. “It’s pretty easy to use and it's free for us as an organization,” she noted, “but also reasonable for those purchasing tickets.”

McAuliffe Middle School: A Voice for All
<p>"I was a HUGE fan of ‘The Sing Off,’” admitted Shannon Wallace, “but I never really thought I could have a group like that at the middle-school level. Then,” she added with a smile, “we started adding a capella songs into our show choir sets, and I realized that with the proper arranging our students could actually do it.”</p><p><span>Teaching a capella is a process that has taken time, but it’s been worth it: “I started the first group as a ‘come check it out’ type of thing, and it just kept growing. I have kids that ‘beat-box,’ and I teach sight-reading, so all the kids can be ready.” </span></p><p><span>As Vocal Music Director at McAuliffe Middle School in Long Beach, CA, Wallace has spent 12 years shaping young voices. “When I started, there were about 65 students; today, we have about 300 students.” McAuliffe now has five choral groups, of which three are audition-free. Each one of these - Sixth Sense (6th graders), Sound Waves (7th and 8th grade girls) and Soul Men (7th and 8th grade boys) - emphasizes a different aspect of the choral experience. </span></p><p><span>Each year, there are three major school performances that include every choir student. “We do musicals and other events in collaboration with the drama, band, computer and art programs,” Wallace added. For example, “the all-school musical is a large collaboration led by the Visual And Performing Arts (VAPA) team, but it includes many academic disciplines. The choir makes up the chorus of the show, the drama teacher directs the leads and manages the tech crew, computers does promotions and programs, art does backdrops and art displays at the show; history and language arts do projects in class that are displayed at the concert, and band plays pre-show and intermission.” Wallace particularly enjoyed Lion King as was one of her favorite productions. “It’s just a really great show and the art department made some incredible masks for our kids to wear.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/14705779_704956396324194_4163538010567986240_n.jpg" width="960" height="640" /></p><p><span>In addition to the three choral groups mentioned are the advanced, audition-only vocal groups, Studio Singers and Sforzando (a musical term meaning “strong emphasis”). “Students fill out an application and I give them a song to learn.” To be chosen, “they learn two parts and sing in quartets at auditions. This shows me that they can hold their part, sing multiple parts when needed and have the resources to study at home.”</span></p><p><span>Of Sforzando, which is McAuliffe’s strictly a capella group, Wallace said, “It’s really competitive to get into because I only take about 20 kids each year. And because the students only get one elective, we have to meet only twice a week outside of the regular day. Students have to be really dedicated.”</span></p><p><span>In return for their dedication, all students receive valuable experience, performing in up to a dozen community events and competitions each year. And while students routinely perform at the Seal Beach Art Fair, Angels Stadium and more (“I have several students that sing the National Anthem for various events”), the performances that attract the most attention and excitement are District Choral Festival and the Knott’s Berry Farm competition. “The District Choral festival is our biggest district event, boasting over three thousand audience members. Every choir in the district performs.” For the Knott’s Berry Farm competition, both the McAuliffe school and choral groups are on stage and in the park together. “It’s a really fun day of music and bonding,” said Wallace. “All the 7th and 8th grade choirs go to the competition, get to see their friends from other schools and cheer each other on. They also work really hard leading up to competition because they know the stakes are really high.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/21463344_882949228524909_656333397054969908_n.jpg" width="960" height="540" /></p><p><span>Extracurricular performances also provide a valuable experience to the public. “I think visibility is important so the community sees the work of the students. Only 20 percent of our residents have students that attend our schools,” she explained, “so having these outside performances allows our program to have a much broader reach in the community and gives our students a much deeper arts education. And it is crucial if we want community commitment to the arts.”</span></p><p><span>After Wallace and her students, true commitment to McAuliffe’s choral program comes from the McAuliffe Choir Booster Club, a not-for-profit organization that arranges events and recruits parents to help as volunteers. “Our main needs are collecting donations, chaperones and event help,” noted Wallace. </span></p><p><span>The Booster Club also manages the event ticketing. Upon becoming Club President, Adam H. Littig discovered he had an unusual problem. “Tickets are a hot commodity,” he noted, “and people felt quite entitled to them.” To eliminate issues like over-comping, seat switching and old-fashioned “sneaking in,” Littig worked with Ludus on a system whereby audience members use wrist brands - rather than paper tickets - to get in and out of the event. “Ludus solved the problem with wrist bands,” he said.</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/960103_589192011233967_3772846760095309847_n.jpg" width="960" height="720" /></p><p><span>Littig began working with Ludus because of its integration with CHARMS, but the partnership has yielded many benefits, including an easy way for ticket-buyers to donate to the program. “People can round up their bill by adding donations to their total.” If, for example, total ticket price is $53, buyers can round up by adding a $7 donation, making the price an even $60. Said Littig, “This has given the program about $500-$600 in donations each year, without even trying!”</span></p><p><span>Having the Club taking care of logistics helps Wallace concentrate on teaching. “I work hard on creating a culture of inclusiveness and support in each of my classes.” she said. “I encourage the students to be good people first, then good singers.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/The-Boys-1024x768.jpg" width="1024" height="768" /></p><p><span>You could say of Wallace that choral singing has shaped her life. “I’ve met all of my best friends and my husband in choir,” she said. “I still sing in my church choir and run a community chorus for the parents of my students.”</span></p><p><span>And she hasn’t given up on her original vision: “I would love for my a capella group to take the stage with Pentatonix some time.”<br /><br />To witness McAuliffe Choir's magic, check out their Ludus ticketing portal at: <a href="https://mcauliffechoir.ludus.com/">mcauliffechoir.ludus.com</a>!</span></p>
Holland High: Spirit of 86
In 1986, two high school students yearned for Holland High School to have a fully fledged theater program. “Sophomore Kurt Bedell and junior Jenn Torrington had decided they wanted a REAL theater program and, with their mothers’ help AND 100-plus student signatures, petitioned the school board,” Kevin Schneider remembered.</span></p><p><span>Schneider, who happened to have been doing summer stock in nearby Whitehall, thought of the Holland High job as a temporary role. . But thirty-two years later, Schneider is still happy to be Holland High’s theater department director. It’s been a productive and rewarding time for all at Holland High School Theatre, which has since won 22 state titles, received honors from the U.S. Senate, Michigan House of Representatives, governors and mayors as well as being selected to represent theater at both the International Fringe Festival and Michigan Youth Arts Festival.</span></p><p> <img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Screen-Shot-2018-11-28-at-10.33.42-AM.png" width="921" height="613" /></p><p><span>Schneider himself is similarly honored. He was Michigan Teacher of the Year in 1990; Michigan Speech Coaches Hall of Fame in 1996; Theatre Teacher of the Year (MSCI) in 1997 and 2007; National Federation Interscholastic Outstanding Theatre Educator in 2002; National Forensics League National Award of Excellence in 2005 and National Forensics League Diamond Award winner in 2008.</span></p><p><span>That’s a lot to look back on - especially for someone who only had been there a year! But Schneider chose to remain because “I have always been a task master and push students towards their best … and they almost always surpass my expectations. The kids are passionate about theater.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Screen-Shot-2018-11-28-at-10.34.01-AM.png" width="1051" height="700" /></p><p><span>There are usually between 60 and 80 students involved with larger shows, he noted; and 30 or so with smaller. “Students take ownership of excellence, helping new members of the team, working extra hours, working to make each moment count.” </span></p><p><span>Schneider admires the students’ passion because he was hooked on theater at a young age: “I remember seeing a Shakespearean production when I was five years old (I went with my mother) and it was the most exciting thing I had ever seen.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Screen-Shot-2018-11-28-at-10.32.45-AM.png" width="1136" height="639" /></p><p><span>Although Shakespeare remains his enduring passion, Schneider has made Holland known a byword for musical spectaculars. “We do a minimum of four shows a season, but often do five. If we include a summer season, we can do up to seven shows.” The latest production is A Christmas Story, The Musical, with showings running from Nov. 29 through Dec. 9. It will feature 50 students on stage ranging from 4th through 12th grade; 20 students working backstage, and choreographic contributions Alumni Abbie Page, dance educator June Wygant and Broadway guest artist and Grand Rapids native Lydia Ruth Dawson.</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Screen-Shot-2018-11-28-at-10.34.22-AM.png" width="917" height="612" /></p><p><span>Among the past favorites are Strider (adapted from a Tolstoy story), which “pushes the performer, director and audience to see things differently.” Another favorite is A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (“I truly love that humor!”). Moving forward, Schneider said, “I would love to direct A Flea in Her Ear, The Imaginary Invalid and maybe something like The Kiss of the Spider Woman.” Of course, he added, “if you ask me tomorrow, that list will change.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Screen-Shot-2018-11-28-at-10.33.24-AM-300x200.png" alt="" width="300" height="200" /></p><p><span> Holland High School Theatre is fortunate to have its own facility. “The school has been supportive of giving us and the music department main control over the use of the space,” said Schneider. “I would LOVE fly space and more room in the wings.” Also: ” We have an amazing scene shop, but the stage itself lacks. Oh, and a lighting system made after 1990...ours is pretty old and has a tendency to do what it wants when it wants to,” he added. </span></p><p><span>Holland High continues to have an incredible booster group that includes group leaders. And as students grow in the program, said Schneider, “they pass on a tradition of hard work and high expectations. They love each other and the shows. That goes a long way to keep the tradition going.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Screen-Shot-2018-11-28-at-10.33.06-AM.png" width="1035" height="689" /></p><p><span>Looking back on the program that he helped create in 1986, Bedell said, “Kevin Schneider has built an amazing program with commitment and dedication to creating a place for students to grow, work hard and succeed. I am proud and gratified by how Holland High School's humble theater program beginnings have grown into such a successful powerhouse and have elevated theater and the arts across the state.”</span></p><p>Interested in seeing Holland Theatre in action? Join them at their newest production of A Christmas Story, and check out their portal at <a href="https://hollandtheatre.ludus.com/">hollandtheatre.ludus.com</a>.</p>
Omaha Area Youth Orchestras: Love at First Hear
<p><span>Aviva Segall has always been passionate about music. Hearing the cello for the first time as a little girl, she remembered that “I got up and started screaming, ‘I want to play that one, mommy!’ It was love at first hear.”</span></p><p><span>For the past 20 years, as Music Director and Principal Conductor at Omaha Area Youth Orchestras (OAYO), Segall has been hearing the beautiful sound of other young people discovering music. The program serves 550 musicians annually, ages eight to 18, in Omaha, Council Bluffs and surrounding areas. It reaches more than 100 schools and 29 school districts. Now in its 60th season, OAYO has grown to six orchestras (“four orchestras by audition and two by teacher recommendation”) and 18 chamber music ensembles. All provide high-level musical instruction and such performance opportunities as concerts and outreach events. And: “We occasionally have a new music ensemble, and our conductor for that is our alumnus, Vimbayi Kaziboni, who was the assistant conductor for the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris and is now the new music conductor at Boston Conservatory at Berklee.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/12107753_880688532008474_4085583307009051999_n-1.jpg" width="960" height="639" /></p><p><span>OAYO started as a combined effort of the Omaha Symphony Guild and the public schools, said Segall. “The goal,” she added, “was for the schools to enable more advanced musicians to perform great works of classical literature, inspire musicians to advance and to bring back musical leadership skills to their school orchestras.” In addition, it was thought that being a member of OAYO would inspire the young musicians to appreciate the Omaha Symphony, creating both the artists and the audiences of the future.</span></p><p><span>To strengthen this bond, “We have two side-by-side rehearsals and a side-by-side concert every year with our top group, Youth Symphony, and the Omaha Symphony. Maestro Thomas Wilkins, Music Director of the Omaha Symphony (and principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra) conducts most of that concert. </span></p><p><span>“The Omaha Symphony also does two side-by-side rehearsals with our second orchestra, Youth Philharmonic,” Segall added. “Our youngest string group, Youth Concert Strings does a side-by-side with the string players of our top group, Youth Symphony. It allows our Youth Symphony strings to close the loop, being both mentors and mentees!”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/1378334_528593917217939_820938525_n.jpg" width="720" height="960" /></p><p><span>Since joining OAYO, Segall has added orchestras and have expanded the chamber music offerings. An ambitious impresario, she is always busy adding and tweaking; but also, when necessary, accommodating. “We just try to do the right thing for our musicians and our community. Depending on the needs of the community, we have expanded some programs in the past,” she said. However, “we are in the process of re-evaluating our programs to better fit the changing music education landscape. Young musicians have busier and busier lives, so we are trying to make sure that their experience with us fits in with their primary commitment to their schools. We have been switching our schedule to have more ‘events’ that can be optional for our high school musicians at busy times during their school year.” Especially with OAYO’s entry level Prelude programs, “We are trying to figure out how to make sure they are offered in places and times that work with student needs, especially transportation needs.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/543105_275462325864434_1724930719_n.jpg" width="720" height="479" /></p><p><span>Segall draws inspiration from Maestro José Abreu, the founder of Venezuela’s El Sistema children’s music project. “José Abreu (who passed away this March) talked about the orchestra as the ideal society. In short, all the qualities you expect to find in the ideal citizen are refined and polished through practice, rehearsal and performance in an orchestral musician. Those include knowing when to lead and when to follow, how to take responsibility for your own part so you can contribute to the good of the whole, when your voice is the most important and most importantly, when it is time to step back and listen to others.”</span></p><p><span>OAYO enjoys a great deal of community support. “We have fabulous community partners,” she said, listing “public schools, professional arts organizations and other community partners. All parents volunteer three times in a season; we also have been lucky to have wonderful staff and board members. We go for the win-win-win in every partnership. ”</span></p><p><span>This year, for example, “We had a Veteran’s Day concert at the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum. There was a fighter plane in the concert space!” In situations like these, “If our students have a great experience and our partners get their goals in a collaboration met - and we have the capacity to do it - it is a good partnership.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/1817_604902432920420_578176019_n.jpg" width="960" height="686" /></p><p><span>OAYO has been with Ludus for about two years. Ludus was selected, according to Segall, “as the least expensive, most adaptable option that ‘talks to Charms’” - the predominant office assistant software used by schools for their extracurricular programs. “We still need to figure out how to make it work with Charms better and need to figure out the season ticket packages more effectively, said Segall, “but we had some staff turnover….”</span></p><p><span>Segall has more wishes, such as performance venues that are less expensive and in which “ we could have more rehearsals!” She also wishes for “a composer in residence and could commission pieces for all of our orchestras and chamber music groups every single year. Especially pieces that the groups could perform together.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/1044912_479592238784774_1730842124_n.jpg" width="720" height="480" /></p><p><span>She loves what alumni like Kaziboni and William Welter, the new principal oboe of the Chicago Symphony, have achieved. “We have a number of other professional musicians, but also teachers, entrepreneurs, doctors, etc! I am very proud of all of our alumni! The best thing is to see the children of alumni in our program!”</span></p><p><span>Most of all: “I love my job! I always say if you want to have faith in the future of this country, all you have to do is spend three minutes with any one of the fabulous young musicians in OAYO!”</span></p><p>If you’re in the Omaha area, and are interested in attending one of OAYO’s concerts, check out their Ludus portal at <a draggable="false" href="https://oayo.ludus.com/index.php">oayo.ludus.com</a>.</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/31944340_1663593583717961_4381688887639015424_n.jpg" width="720" height="960" /></p>
Hermantown High School: Life Needs Drama
<div title="Page 1"><div><div><div title="Page 1"><div><div><p>Theater has always been an important part of the Hermantown High School student experience. “There has been a Drama Club at Hermantown since the school was formed in 1942,” said Musical Director Ken Ahlberg. He would know: For nearly half that time, Ahlberg himself has been part of Hermantown’s performing tradition; first as a student in the 1980s, then as a teacher, starting in 1994. Today, with nearly 700 9-12K students, Ahlberg estimates that 100 of those are involved in the Drama Club each year, which currently puts on one full musical, one dramatic production, and a competitive one act each year. “We have recently tried an evening of student-directed one acts,” said Ahlberg, “hoping to have the plays include student-written plays.” (There is a special focus on one-act plays because, since 1970, Hermantown has participated in the statewide one-act play competition that’s overseen by the Minnesota State High School League.)</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/36786089794_6c50c4b28d_k.jpg" width="2048" height="1356" /></p><p>Considering that Hermantown lists 30 extracurricular activities (from Alpine Skiing to Wrestling), having one in seven students involved in theater is impressive. Flexibility is key to student participation, said Ahlberg. “The percentage of our actors and crew who are also varsity athletes is very high. I think the biggest reason we are able to get nearly 20% participation is that we welcome all students to audition, then work our rehearsal schedule around the students’ activities. It makes it a bit challenging to come up with a rehearsal calendar, but it allows all students to try out, even if they are in other activities.”</p><p>Some of the students are versatile talents and have demonstrated presence of mind under pressure: “We have had some goofy events where smoke detectors set off the fire alarms during You Can't Take It With You,” remembered Ahlberg, “but my absolute favorite moment was during The Drowsy Chaperone, during the Man in the Chair's monologue where he complains about cell phones in the theater. During this one performance, a patron's cell phone began ringing! Our Man in the Chair improvised a few lines that couldn't have been planned. Robert Martin would have loved it, I'm sure.”</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/37447002576_0faf8fc1ab_k.jpg" width="2048" height="1536" /></p><p>Since 1999, Ahlberg has been directing the school’s musicals - with the occasional non-musical thrown in. “I have always wanted to direct a Sondheim show, and this fall we are producing Into the Woods, so I am very excited!” Some previous personal favorites include The Light in the Piazza, Les Miserables, The Drowsy Chaperone, Urinetown, Pippin, Little Women, Guys and Dolls and Man of La Mancha.</p><p>And, for a school that does not offer a theater curriculum, a surprising number of its alumni go on to work in theater. In fact, there is a student who is currently doing online school because he is also “doing eight shows a week in Newsies at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, along with an HHS alumnus,” said Ahlberg.</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/36825099573_24112fb8f9_k.jpg" width="2048" height="1536" /></p><p>“We have a surprisingly large number of students who become theater majors, and make their career on and about the stage,” he added. “We have an alumnus who is now a costume designer in New York City, who had the great fun of dressing Chita Rivera in The Visit. Another alumnus is touring in the band with the performing artist M. Ward. We have several working actors and instrumentalists all around the country. We are extremely proud of our Equity actor Shad Olsen!” Ahlberg noted that Olsen was in his 7th-grade choir when he started teaching.</p><p>But for Ahlberg, theater was always an easy choice. “I have always been involved with plays,” said Ahlberg, admitting that “my dad made a stage in our basement, complete with curtain, where my next-door neighbor and I put on plays that our families would have to come and watch.” In college, however, Ahlberg discovered the joy of directing. “I have been onstage as an actor a number of times over the past several years, but I find I enjoy directing the most.”</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/10230812524_f560ed8ae1_k.jpg" width="2048" height="1536" /></p><p>Recently, Hermantown High School moved to a new building. “This is our second year in our brand-new high school,” noted Ahlberg, “and I have to say that we might just have the best theater space in the area. We were blessed to have had our lead architect in the project have his bachelor’s degree in technical theater. Previously,” he recalled, “our performance space was a 200-seat lecture hall with the upstage being a foldable “wall” that opened to the cafeteria and was 10 feet from the gymnasium. No fly, no wings, no pit, no catwalks, no green room, no scene shop, no dressing rooms. Yet, we put on amazing shows!</p><p>“Happily, we now have a 680-seat theater with a full fly, catwalks, a space for the ‘pit,’ a green room/scene shop with a 15-foot-high loading bay door from the outside, dressing rooms, costume storage and state-of-the-art sound and lighting. Our dream is now for increased financing, so we can fully utilize the space the community has so graciously provided. We now have space where we can stage Mary Poppins with full flying effects, if we could only afford to do so.”</p></div></div><div><div><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/37462855612_f2fa2eeb9b_k-678x1024.jpg" width="678" height="1024" /></p><p>When it comes to his students, however, Ahlberg wishes that “all of our Drama Club kids find a place where they are welcome, where they can ‘try on’ being someone totally new. And perhaps find out something new about themselves, and that they have experiences that they can take with them in whatever walk of life they end up taking - whether it is in the arts or not.”</p></div><p>Interested in seeing Hermantown's production of Into the Woods? Visit their Ludus ticketing portal at <a href="https://hhstheatre.ludus.com/">hhstheatre.ludus.com</a> to purchase tickets!</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/10257793223_5a63ad26fb_k.jpg" width="2048" height="1536" /></p></div></div></div></div></div>Share0Share +10Tweet0

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GhostLight Productions: Shine a Light
<div title="Page 1"><div><div><div title="Page 1"><div><div><p><span>One characteristic of a great idea is its persistence. “My wife and I had always wanted to do ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,’” reminisced Mark Lorentzen, co-founder and artistic director of Ghostlight Productions. Trouble was, living in the relatively small town of Sequim, WA, it was hard for the Lorentzens to attract established theater groups to the Olympic Peninsula. Then one day, “We came to the realization that we should just produce it on our own.”</span></p><p><span>Not that starting a theater wasn’t always at the back of his mind. “I was a musical theater/opera major in college and was a professional performer.” After moving to the Peninsula, the decision was made: the area was perfect to establish a summer stock type theater. The company quickly gained a reputation for new plays as well as new interpretations of the classics. “We feel strongly that arts programs are essential to the building of a strong community." So, in the spring of 2015, “We gathered some actors, rented a theater and Ghostlight Productions (GLP) was launched.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Annie-3.jpg" width="1200" height="800" /></p><p><span>Theater people are familiar with “ghostlights,” those faint stage lights that help actors and performers locate their marks on stage. Ironically, in the middle of Spelling Bee, GLP’s actors discovered that several “blackout” cues had been added to the lighting plot. “There was quite a bit of panic when everything went pitch black in the middle of the show - stage, pit, everything!<span>  </span>Our light tech had to improvise the cues until we could figure out what had happened.” </span></p><p><span>Such is the life of a gypsy company (one with no home theater). “We currently rent one of several venues here on the Peninsula,” said Lorentzen. “The PA Playhouse and the Sequim High School Auditorium are the ones we use the most. We use the playhouse for our more intimate shows. The high school we use for larger “blockbuster” shows.”</span></p><p><span>Both types of shows are handpicked by the company for audience appeal, among them, Titanic: The Musical. “We were lucky enough to produce the West Coast premiere of the new ‘ensemble’ version of the show,” remembered Lorentzen, who, with his wife, played the lead roles of Fred Barrett and Kate McGowan. “It was a beautiful and life-changing show.</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/25151876_2051599581736889_6001536924850365765_n.jpg" width="720" height="480" /></p><p><span>“When you are a new theater group,” he added, “you have to play it relatively safe. As our reputation and following has grown, our audiences are opening up to some ‘riskier’ productions. For example, we are producing Next to Normal this winter.” Lorentzen noted, “We definitely would not have felt as comfortable producing a show like that (albeit brilliant) when we were starting out.”</span></p><p><span>One of the reasons GLP feels comfortable taking risks is the company’s growing involvement in the community. “At the moment, all of our performers are (very dedicated) community members - although we are starting to work with Actors Equity Association on some potential special appearance contracts for specific shows.<span>  </span>We have had casts with as few as six and some numbering close to 50!”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/White-Christmas.jpg" width="960" height="639" /></p><p><span>Since 2017, GLP has been a nonprofit. “We decided to go with a 501(c)(3) structure because we wanted to focus on what was important to us: the art. Now, with a board, they get help with show suggestions from members, which are then put to a vote for approval.<span>  </span>If something doesn't make the cut for the season,” said Lorentzen, “it is usually put on the back burner.” Having nonprofit status makes it easier for GLP to offer educational programs like “a Musical Theater Jazz Dance workshop taught by our resident choreographer, Anna Pederson,” he said, adding, “We have plans to add more performance and technical workshops very soon!”</span></p><p><span>Lorentzen is very happy with GLP’s progress. “I’ve often heard people say ‘never start a theater company.’<span>  </span>While we have had ups and downs, I’m so glad we decided to do it. One of the greatest lessons anyone can learn is the power of shared experience. It is a truly beautiful thing when people still talk about a show, two or three years after.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Les-Mis.jpg" width="960" height="640" /></p><p>GLP has engaged Ludus for the past two years and is very happy about it. What stood out to Lorentzen about Ludus was that “it seemed to be built by people who were as passionate about the ‘experience’ as we are.”</p></div></div><div><div><p><span>Jay Rocha and Juanita Chamberlain, who alternate as Head of Box Office, not only have had good experiences with Ludus, they are looking to add more customization. “We use Ludus exclusively for our ticket sales both online and at the box office,” said Rocha. “We designate a head of box office and then we train additional volunteers. Ludus is very intuitive, making it easy to train volunteers to help at the shows (basic functions can be taught in 15 minutes or less). It has been a delight to see the feature set grow and develop over the years,” he added, ”making our job easier and more professional. It's great to have all the reporting tools at our disposal and the quick stats screen is my favorite place to go during a show to see how we are doing on sales!”</span></p><p><span>Moving forward, Rocha wants to learn more about direct emailing tools in order to collect donations for GLP’s growing theater program. “One tool we've seen other theaters use is a ‘giving tree’ that features specific items (a microphone, a light, a soundboard, etc) for donors to sponsor’ by giving that specific amount. A digital ‘giving tree’ would be interesting.</span></p><p>To purchase tickets to Ghostlight Productions upcoming performance of Next to Normal, you can visit their ticketing portal <a href="https://ghostlightproductions.ludus.com/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">here</a>!</p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Sequim-High-School-Auditorium-2-e1536085770435.jpg" width="2016" height="1512" /> Sequim High School Auditorium</div><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Mark-Danielle-300x300.jpg" width="300" height="300" /> Mark &amp; Danielle Lorentzen</div></div></div></div></div>Share0Share +10Tweet0

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