Wyoming Area Theater History
We began simply, twelve years ago, with little more than a dream and ambition. In 1990 Barbara Bullion's, our "Drama Mama" as she would come to be known, ventured into the world of high school theater with a production of Thirteen Wilder's Our Town. Her choice was one of necessity, a simple set when they had no money, as well as theatrical merit. The scenery was a small set of steps, extending from the stage and a few props. Their only lighting option was on or off. Their small beginnings opened the door to the grandeur of our present drama club.
We undertook a female version of The Odd Couple next. The lighthearted comedy drew a sizeable crowd from both the community and the student body. With our confidence bolstered, it was on to bigger and better things, our first musical, Oliver!. We welcomed Betsy Novack as our musical director and choreographer. She was our "orchestra" on the piano. The set was designed by Barbara Bullions and constructed by Jerry Ragantesi. Our efforts were wildly successful and the show brought in a full house on both nights.
In 1991 we received a charter to become a member of the International Thespian Society. The International Thespian Society offers students exposure to the larger world of theater. As members, they benefit from publications edited specifically for high school theater enthusiasts; from participating in events like state conferences and the International Thespian Festival; from the recognition that comes from being a part of an honorary organization; and from the widened perspective that proves they share an interest with millions of peers. Thespian students also have an array of scholarship opportunities open to them at state and international thespian events. The first inductees into Wyoming Area's Thespian Troupe #4795 were Justine Bone, Andrea Gamble, Amy Novack, Franceen Pisano, Lisa Ragantesi, Jill Scatena, Michelle Sennick, and Tim Webb; all class of 1991.
Our Miss Brooks, a comedy about a teacher trying to produce a school play and getting no cooperation from coaches, other teachers, and often her own students, was our next endeavor. This was the first show we performed for the entire student body. Simultaneously a student directed, produced and adapted production was being developed. The Gift of the Magi was staged by Mark Migliore ('92) and Renee McDonnell ('92). A drama, Voices from the High School, was our next project. It consisted of a series of dialogues and monologues exemplifying the lives of teenagers and the constant pressures placed upon them. As our reputation grew it began to precede us. Since 1992 Wyoming Area Thespians have been a big hit, performing at the annual West Pittston Cherry Blossom Festival.
1993 was a busy year. Our spring production of Grease was truly a hallmark. It was our first, of several to follow, grand scale musical. The show featured Scott Jackson (`93) as Danny Zucko, Angela Chintala (`93) as Betty Rizzo and Beth Ann Scalonge (`96) as Sandy. Tom Kearns designed the set and Don Butz conducted the orchestra. This play was a decidedly monstrous undertaking. The time students dedicate to drama and each production is more than admirable. We easily rival any sport or club at Wyoming Area with an average of 100 plus hours per student. Weekends and free time are soon sacrificed, but once our goal is realized we discover it was certainly time well spent. With our eyes on the prize we worked feverishly to elevate our status to a truly spectacular level. We were rewarded with a huge outpouring of support and admiration. Grease pulled in a full house all three nights! In October of 1993 we entered the Haunted Main Street competition. Several area schools entered, however we placed first and were awarded $1,000 for our Phantom of the Opera entry.
In 1994 we staged the comedy You Can't Take It With You. The talented Shawn Metcalfe (`94) and Sharon Strope (`96) stared as Ed and Penny. Again our drive and determination paid off. The play was an enormous success, far surpassing our expectations.
The following school year we were proud to welcome a new parents group. Today the Drama Parents are an indispensable component of our club, and we give them much praise and gratitude for all their hard work. That spring we brought Auntie Mame to the stage, Wyoming Area style! Among the talent on stage were Ann Marie Chintala (`95) who stared as the eccentric Mame Dennis, Myke Hoover (`95) as Beaureguard Jackson and Rob Burke (`95) as Patrick. A live horse left an indubitable impression on the audience, adding to our truly unique and larger than life reputation.
We have long since learned of the hardships that are faced when surmounting a large, involved play. We know the sacrifices and requirements necessary for a quality production. When the decision was made in 1996 to do West Side Story, we were apprehensive, to say the least, in facing the daunting task before us. Any fears were soon quelled, thanks in great part to the support of our Drama Parents. They held fundraisers, our premiere Coffee House-Cabaret and an over 21 dance for local adults. West Side Story, one of our greatest epics to date, featured Kevin Cooper (`96) and Beth Ann Scalonge (`96) as the love-struck couple Tony and Maria, and Sharon Strope (`96) as the fiery Puerto Rican, Anita.
It was a fitting tribute, as the curtains closed we mourned the loss of our "Drama Mama." Mrs. Bullions went out on a high note, leaving us wanting more, as they say in show biz. When she took leave as drama advisor in 1996, we gave her much thanks and love for the time and effort she gave and the wisdom she instilled in us all.
In the 1996-1997 school year we began anew. We were happy to welcome Jackie Nowakowski as our new drama advisor. We began planning for the spring play with our second Coffee House-Cabaret and attended our first Pennsylvania State Thespian Convention. Our 1997 production of Working starred Richard Zavacki (`98) as Mike the steelworker, Tila Paris Angly (`97) as the cleaning woman, Becky Bennett (`97) as Delores the waitress, Ed Randazzo (`97) as Al the parking man, Jill Ralston (`97) as Babe the cashier and Melissa Hilstolsky (`97) as the housewife. The play was wildly sucessful.
Once again in the fall 1997 we faced personal loss. Tom Kearns, our set designer and Joseph Cunnigham, our technical advisor, were not able to return. We thank them for the years of service they have contributed and wish them well. We welcomed Jaime Kurtz of Kurtz Theater Productions for our 1998 production of Arsenic and Old Lace. Jaime designed and directed the construction of the set and Mary Dower hand made most of the costumes. Playing the eccentric Brewster clan were Amanda Carey (`98) as Abby, Kim Jackson (`99) as Martha, Sam Ciali (`98) as Teddy, Richard Zavacki (`98) as Mortimer and Danny Hyzenski (`98) as Jonathan.
In 1999 we were ecstatic to welcome back our "Drama Mama" Barbara Bullions and her partner in crime Betsy Novack. Guys and Dolls was definitely a mammoth production, with well over 75 students participating in the cast and crew. Our shows are entirely student run, proof of our training and sheer tenacity. We did endure months of grueling rehearsal, choreography, vocal coaching, blocking and director's notes but when it came time for us to shine, Barbara Bullions and Betsy Novack had prepared us well. Our fabulous student crew toiled endless hours painting and building and obtaining props, paying strict attention to detail. It is only with such dedication that the actors can do their job. Jaime Kurtz designed an impressive set that surely captured the essence of 1940's New York City. Don Butz conducted a large student and adult orchestra. Guys and Dolls featured Jessica Taroli (`99) as Miss Adelaide, Kate Mangan (`99) as Sarah Brown, Ryan Jones (`99) as Nathan Detroit, and Nick Pazdziorko (`99) as Sky Masterson. The Drama Parents helped out immensely, from ticket sales to set building, but most importantly fundraising. It cost a hair raising $20,000 to stage this play.
In 2000 we celebrated ten wonderful years of Wyoming Area Theatre. We attended the PA State Thespian Convention, held in Allentown at Parkland High School. The Drama Parents held our annual Coffee House-Cabaret, a student dance, a circus and a bookstore performance night, all in anticipation of out largest undertaking yet. Our spring 2000 production of Bye Bye Birdie featured the talents of Michael Supey ('00) as Albert Peterson, Sarah Pennartz ('00) as Rose Alvarez, and Jaime Pitcavage ('00) as Conrad Birdie. Tom Kearns returned, designing our largest, and entirely mobile set. Many long hours went in to the construction and delicate maneuvering that would take place between scenes. The stage crew rehearsed nearly as often as the cast. Many devoted students spent their entire day in the school, classes from 8am until 2:30pm, off to crew as soon as the bell rang, a short dinner break, then back to rehearse around 6 or 7 pm and if they were lucky, stumbled home and collapsed in bed around 11. It was, of course, all worth it. Bye Bye Birdie was terribly successful, with a huge response from the student body as well as the community.
With the 2000-2001 school year, we again threw ourselves head first into a fabulous year. In collaboration with the Drama Parents we ran a carwash, our annual Coffee House-Cabaret, a circus, a performance at Fox Hill Country Club for the Women's Club of West Pittston, and another performance night at Barnes and Noble. We again attended the Pennsylvania State Thespian Conference, held at Central York High School - York, PA. The theme for the three-day convention, held November 30, January 1 & 2, was Reflections. Upon arriving Thursday afternoon, the 28-student delegation was presented with what promised to be a weekend of entertainment, education and fond memories of friends new and old. Wyoming Area participated in the opening ceremony parade, sending our golden banner down the aisle with thespian Vice President Michael Ankenbrand and Sergeant at Arms Andrew Austin. Every year three full-length main stage productions are performed. This year began with Anne of Green Gables, a funny, moving and beautifully acted play presented by North Penn High School. Friday morning, after breakfast, drama members hauled the drama display into the gymnasium for exhibition. The large three-fold poster was a pictorial collage of cast, crew and rehearsals, celebrating the past ten years with advisor Mrs. Barbara Bullions. Thespian treasurer Michael Truskowski sang Let Him Be from Les Miserables in the morning showcase. After dinner the students headed off to workshops held by numerous theatre professionals on various subjects. They were educated in everything from set design, to vocal development, film auditions, and special effects. That night Harry S. Truman High School presented a poignant and startling play entitled The Cockfighter. Sophomore Sarah Mangan sang Til There Was You from The Music Man at the Saturday afternoon showcase. The students settled in for the last main stage, Little Shop of Horrors by host school Central York High School after a second round of workshops Saturday night. The closing ceremonies ensued after a stellar performance from Central York. The drama club is proud to announce that Michael Truskowski was elected to the Pennsylvania state student board and drama advisor Barbara Bullions was appointed to the adult board in conjunction. After a good night's sleep at the lovely Four Points Sheraton, the students packed up and piled in to the waiting bus and van for the long ride home. There was a steady enthusiasm shared by all, which most students can not wait to duplicate.
In January we ventured off in a new direction. We staged Tapestry: The Music of Carole King. The musical revue was a truly unique show, unlike anything we had ever done. A cast of six girls and six boys rehearsed for nearly four months under the direction of Betsy Novack. Jessica Ohl (`01) wrote commentary about the sixties and King's musical influence which Charlotte Bell (`01) read between songs as slideshows ran simultaneously. Isaac Alston, Andrew Austin, Jessica Ohl, Meredith Selecky (`01); Corey Croughn, Benjamin Dugas, Michael Truskowski (`02); Sarah Mangan, Ann Marie Price, Brittany Notari (`03); Evan Marich and Krystal Notari (`04) brought King's legendary songs to the stage.
We filmed a puppet show for children on the dangers of tobacco use in late March. Our show went on the road, with performances at Dodson Elementary in Wilkes-Barre, St. Mary's Elementary in Avoca and a special show for the entire student body of our own JFK Elementary. Michael Ankenbrand (`01) starred as Bull the frog, with Andrew Austin (`01) as Clayton the crab, Charlotte Bell (`01) as Daisy the duck, Amber Gelschieter (`01) as Handy the gander, Corey Croughn (`02) as Harry Applebee, Michael Gagliardo (`02) as Tad the tadpole, Kelly Marie McKenna (`02) as Merry the mermaid, Elizabeth Bullions (`03) as Freddie the fish, Katie Sciandra (`03) as Buddy the beaver, and Mark Kleback (`04) as Arnold Applebee.
April of 2001 brought the classroom to the stage in Bell Kaufman's classic Up The Down Staircase. Charlotte Bell (`01) starred as Sylvia Barrett, with Andrew Austin (`01) as Mr. McHabe, Michael Ankenbrand (`01) as Paul Barringer and Kelly Marie McKenna (`02) as Bea Schachter. Corey Croughn (`02) served as the assistant director and we welcomed new stage manager Melissa Salijko (`03). Tom Kearns designed the set, a typical high school classroom of the 1960's in New York City. The crew spent hours, dirtying the walls with grime and scuff marks, evening adding exposed brick, peeling paint and cracked plaster to enhance to the dingy ambiance. This comedy about the tribulations of an idealistic teacher tackling an absurd administration also raised questions of the true difficulties teenagers face day to day.
In the fall of 2001, we entered our twelfth year. November saw a truly magnificent first for the Wyoming Area Drama Club. We were extremely fortunate to have a world premiere of a wonderful new musical comedy by Michael P. Truskowski, Thespian Treasurer ('02). In conjunction with his senior project Michael wrote, composed, directed and starred in Behind The Scenes; "a show about a guy writing a show about a guy writing a show about a guy writing a show." Michael took the lead, Tom, supported by Evan Marich (`04) as Greg, Brittany Notari (`03) as Betsy, and Sarah Mangan (`03) as Barbara.
The Wyoming Area Drama Club, International Thespian Society Troupe 4795 attended the Pennsylvania Thespian Conference 2001, held at Butler Area High School - Butler, PA. The theme for the three-day convention, held November 29, 30 and December 1, was Evolution. Upon arriving Thursday afternoon, the 30-student delegation and five chaperones were presented with what promised to be a wonderful weekend of entertainment, education and the best that Pennsylvania High School Theatre has to offer. Wyoming Area participated in the opening ceremony parade, sending our golden banner down the aisle with thespian president Corey Croughn and sergeant at arms Michael Gagliardo. Every year three full-length main stage productions are performed, this year began with JOB, a beautiful, intelligent and insightful play presented by State College High School.
Friday morning, after breakfast, troupe members hauled the drama display into the auditorium lobby for exhibition. The large three dimensional display, representative of a traditional proscenium stage showcased the previous year's productions; Tapestry: The Music of Carole King and Up The Down Staircase. Thespian historian Kelly Marie McKenna and senior Benjamin Dugas performed a scene from As You Like It in the morning showcase. After dinner the students headed off to workshops held by numerous theatre professionals on various subjects. They were educated in everything from Set Design, to Vocal Development, Film Auditions, and Special Effects. That night Pennsbury Area School District's three Thespian Troupes from Pennsbury High School, Medill Bair High School and Charles Boehm Middle School presented a poignant and startling play entitled Blood Brothers. The performance was chilling and left many audience members in tears.
Junior Sarah Mangan sang Once Upon A Dream from Jekyll and Hyde at the Saturday morning showcase and later that afternoon senior, Thespian treasurer and Pennsylvania State Thespian Student Board member Michael Truskowski and sophomore Evan Marich sang The Man Song from The Full Monty. The students settled in for the last main stage, On Your Toes by Mercyhust Preparatory High School, after a second round of workshops Saturday night. The closing ceremonies ensued after a stellar performance from Mercyhurst, which included two full length ballets. The Wyoming Area Drama Club is proud to announce that senior and Troupe President Corey Croughn was awarded a 100 dollar cash award in technical theatre from Pennsylvania Thespians, based on a portfolio and interview and has since been accepted into Penn State University`s highly competitive stage management program. Senior and Troupe Treasurer Michael Truskowski received recognition for his work on the State Board in the form of a certificate and has since been accepted into New York University's prestigious musicla theatre program. Senior and Troupe Historian Kelly Marie McKenna received recognition in a certificate and engraved pen for her submission Damaged Goods, a one act play which was critiqued by professionals. She also auditioned and was offered a $2,500 Theatre Arts Apprenticeship scholarship to attend Point Park College in Pittsburgh. She is currently awaiting the results of further auditions at Point Park College and Fordham University.
As 2002 dawned we charted unknown territory yet again. Corey Croughn, Thespian President (`02) organized a one act play festival for all of Luzerne County. Two other schools participated in addition to Wyoming Area; Wyoming Valley West, performing Drama Club, and Lake Lehman, performing Frumpled Fairy Tales. Wyoming Area's entry WASP was student directed by Kelly Marie McKenna, Thespian Historian (`02). Adjudicators from Wilkes University chose one student from each production to receive a best performance award. Both Kelly and Corey fulfilled the hands on aspect of their respective senior projects with these endeavors.
The Wyoming Area Drama Club, International Thespian Society Troupe 4795 is currently preparing for their spring production of South Pacific. Michael Truskowski (`02) will portray Emile DeBeque, with a supporting cast to include Ben Dugas (`02) as Lieutenant Cable, Brittany Notari (`03) as Bloody Mary and Sarah Mangan (`03) as Nellie Forebush. The show will run April 19th, 20th and 21st.
Yours in Theater,
Kelly Marie McKenna