Bushra Farook & Kerrin Massey
Les Miserables. Beauty and the Beast. Legally Blonde. Into the Woods. All amazingly successful productions from the Brien McMahon drama department, so what can we expect for the year of 2016-2017? Well, is “nothing” a proper answer?
Some people, especially the current members of the well known, very school involved program, were caught off guard wondering why there was an abrupt stop to the strong club.
We sat down with Mr. Frank Arcari and Mr. Scott Benson, also known as the Choir and Orchestra Directors here at McMahon to question them on why the sudden decision.
Before we get into the details about why there might not be a play this year, do you have a specific reason for doing two plays last year which contradict the previous year?
A: “Often when we do shows there are only one or two main leads. The rest are just small parts and when you have a large group of people, you wanna create opportunities for people to develop and for them to experience leadership. Legally Blonde has one main character, Elle Woods. Meanwhile, Into The Woods was more of an ensemble cast. This allowed me to get the new crop of freshman to get involved. We just happened to have the right people. Legally Blonde had a lot of small, not unimportant, but small parts, and I wanted to showcase the talent.”
B: “We like to keep as many students involved. Years past we’ve had about 100+ involved in our productions but we wanted to do these modern plays with smaller casts. When you have a cast of 12 instead of 20, then many students won’t be involved. We thought we would do two smaller musicals instead of a big one.”
How do you feel the drama department is treated in McMahon?
A: “We are a club. We’re supported by many administrators and students. From the school community and the school system as a whole, we need funding and it's bothersome that many programs in the school are funded but we’re not.”
B: “Well, people come to see us when it comes to plays. Families and students come to support their classmates. But that’s not enough because we struggle to sell tickets.”
It’s been rumored that we don’t get enough funding compared to the Sports teams at McMahon. Feelings?
A: “This is not about a Sports vs an Arts thing. Sports needs funding just as much as the Arts. Every other group got funding. Band. Sports. Drama, who supports more than 100 students, got nothing. Do I think it's fair? No. Can I do anything about it at the moment? No. Parents and students are getting frustrated because the Band students don't have to pay to play, yet we do, considering the size we have and the people we service.”
B: “It’s these false narratives that have been created where it’s the arts against the athletics. Because we’re music teachers runninrtg it, there becomes a side deal, well it’s an offshoot of a music class and they get a budget for their class, but that’s not the case. That’s where the difficulty comes in. Six years ago we had zero in the coffers, so that year we went out to the public and said that ‘we have no money to put on a show, we’d like to, but we need your help’. We raised $50,000 that year, which is great, but a show costs anywhere to 40,000 to 55,000 to do. But we managed.”
Do you think we’re going to have a play this year? If so, what are you leaning towards?
A: “I don't know if we're gonna have a play, but I always try to lean towards something that can involve all the talented students.”
What do you guys currently do to raise money? Could or should anything change?
A: “We sell ads, coupon books, we've sold coffee. We've gone to restaurants and gotten a percentage on sales. You name it, we've done it. Nothing could really change per say, it's just exhausting and takes way more time. I have to do that plus run a drama club. Do you know how many cookies cost 40,000? Of course not. I don't see anyone else doing a bake sale in order to support their program. Baking should be an addition to raise funds, not become a dependent thing for the students to worry if they're able to pull off the show or not. I'm done killing myself for these things.”
What is the Drama Department’s budget at the moment?
A: “Zero. Nothing. Talking about earlier, if we get funded $30,000, and the students want a $48,000 show, they should come up with the rest. The band gets $85,000, the Marching Bears get $90,000. They're given a per pupil allegation. The musical should be included within the music program. We're a school, we’re not professional. It takes time, money and energy. I shouldn’t have to spend money out of my own pocket.”
After more than 10 successful seasons of productions, do you want to continue in this head-strong organization?
A: “I believe we've grown past the size of one person doing too many jobs. I want to be able to hire people to help the team. I don't want to have to manage all the sides of pulling a show off. Whether it’s Technical. Fundraising. Building. The students care. We’re established. It's an enriching experience and it shouldn’t be hard to keep the program going.”
B: “Of course I’d love to stay a part of this. We have a good reputation here at McMahon for our shows and if we do something, we have to make sure we’re doing it right.”