A group of parents, led by Kathryn Lerner, has formed a new Drama Booster organization to support performing arts in Mercer Island schools.
The booster’s current energy and focus is at Mercer Island High School, but the group and drama Director Daniela Melgar, are also reaching out to drama teachers in all four elementary schools and Islander Middle School.
Taking cues from the district’s successful band program (where Lerner has been an active volunteer and advocate for 10 years), the group is striving for continuity in curriculum from the elementary programs through high school and has planned a first-ever All Island Drama Night for May 22, 2018, according to a press release.
“Fine arts programs like drama, choir, orchestra and band help kids develop life-long skills like empathy, self-discipline, confidence, problem-solving and leadership,” the release states. “And, participation in the arts frequently leads to better success in the rest of their academic classes.”
With funding for the arts at an all-time low, the group’s primary roles are providing volunteer support (set building, prop procurement, feeding the actors during tech week, promoting the show via ticket sales and hanging posters) and fundraising for money to support the program.
The drama program receives less than $500 a year to stage a musical, two dramas and five other performances put on by the Improv class and Drama 1 programs. Historically, the program has managed to get by with small grants and ticket sales, but it is always playing catch up and is forced to make show choices based on a limited budget.
“For those unfamiliar with the world of theater, royalty fees for one show can range from $2,000-$10,000 per show,” according to the press release. “The musical is often the most expensive show of the year as it requires funds for musicians, a choreographer, a costume designer, costumes, larger set design and more props.”
Melgar is also the theater manager and coordinates schedules and use of the Performing Arts Center (PAC) at MIHS. Beyond the drama department, the band, choir and orchestra also use the PAC along with several outside groups including Island Sound, Island Youth Ballet and Parent Edge. The facility itself needs to be maintained as a safe place to perform and the sound system, lights and other technology need to be in good working order for audiences to see and hear the performers.
The group held a small fundraiser at the beginning of the school year and raised $10,000 to support the program and their efforts to better promote the shows and create visibility for the program. Plans are underway to create a logo, website and social media presence.
The newly purchased sandwich board signs promoting the fall musical are larger and easier to read.
Those interested in donating or supporting the Drama Boosters can contact Lerner at firstname.lastname@example.org. For the public, the best way to support performing arts is to attend the shows.
“These young actors put in a lot of time and energy and having a full house really lifts their spirits when it comes time to perform,” according to the release. “Ticket sales and concessions (new this year) are key fundraising avenues for the booster group. So, grab your friends and make plans to attend their first show of the year ‘9 to 5: The Musical.’”
The show is based on the 1980 movie of the same name with music and lyrics written by Dolly Parton. When it opened on Broadway in 2009, the show received 15 Drama Desk Award nominations (the most nominations ever received by a single production in one year) and four Tony Award nominations.
“The show’s message of women fighting against sexual harassment and fighting for leaderships roles in the work place are still with us today but delivered with great music and plenty of laughs,” the release states.
The show runs Nov. 9-18 with performances held on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. at the MIHS PAC. Concessions are available (cash only) and tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door.
Visit https://www.mercerislandschools.org/Page/13439 to purchase tickets online.