Scene | Theater

Theater – October 2021

John Weyers – Playwright

by Judy Hebbe

It can take years for a playwright to write a play, and many more to finally see it produced. For John Weyers, a wish turned him into a playwright in less than two years, and he saw his work produced this September 2021 in New London and at the Performing Arts Center in Appleton.

As caregiver for his wife, Doris, who is experiencing dementia, he sought understanding by attending a play depicting developing mild cognitive impairment. In 12 scenes, the play covered the first year of the behavior changes. At the group discussion following the play, Weyers expressed the wish to see scenes from the second, third, and ensuing years as the disease progresses.  

Cindy Thompson, a board member of Family Caregivers Rock and a part of his discussion group, said “You’ll have to write that.” 

Although he had written presentations for his job as director of nursing for the Outagamie County Health Center, he had never written a script and only written prose for his own edification.  

“I reread the journal I had been keeping about the challenges my wife and I were experiencing,” he said, “and as I reread it, scenes from the years 2007 to the present just jumped out. In four or five days, I had a rough play.”

Initially, he saw the play dealing with the progression of the disease and the behavioral challenges he and his wife were experiencing through the 15 years of their journey. When he asked himself what the greatest challenge was, he realized he was the greatest hurdle he had to overcome.

“My reactions to Doris’ anxiety and anger, my attempts to bring her back to my reality did not deal with her feelings and needs,” he said. “The story is as much, or more, my story and my learning as it is her story.”

Communication is difficult because she cannot vocalize her feelings or thoughts. Her behavior expresses her feelings. When she is tired, she asks to go home. When she is ornery, she is hungry.  

She no longer recognizes her children, grandchildren, or her husband as her husband, but loves him as a caregiver. She carries a baby doll with her, which she wants him to show affection to and take care of both of them.

“Love is a choice,” Weyers said. “It may start as a feeling, but it grows by the choices we make, and the actions we take to show our love. I had made many mistakes in the eight or nine years that I tried to do this care alone. I was frustrated, lonely, and lonesome.”

Following lunch at the Thompson Center in 2015, the couple wandered into the Fox Valley Memory Project office. On the spur of the moment, they joined the choir, attended practices, then attended several Memory Cafes and a support group.  

“That saved my life, as I was sinking at that point,” Weyers said. He has since joined three other support groups. “These groups saved my life. I discovered other people going through the same journey that I was.”

He relied on Thompson to bring the play to life. In addition to being on the board of directors for Family Caregivers Rock, Thompson is also Wish Committee chair and turned her efforts to making Weyers wish come true. She found sponsors for the performances; enlisted Mary Ellen Fields to cast and direct the play, and arranged for performances at New London and the P.A.C. Tom Vinje played Jack and Quinn Martenson played Susie. Margie Brown, director of the Wolf River Theatrical Troupe, served as co-director for the play.  

Theater – August 2021

Curtain Up on a New Endeavor

by Jim Romenesko

Meet Joshua Thone, a young man for whom theater has been a central focus since he was a child. The soon-to-be senior at Xavier High School recalls his first role: that of Pinocchio in “Hocus Pocus,” an original play at the Neenah “Y” when he was nine years old. 

Since then, Thone has performed in about forty-five productions. Impressive for a young man of his age.

But this year, he enters a new phase in his showbiz life as he heads up an exciting project of his own.

At the end of his stint as a park leader for the Fox Crossing Parks and Recreation Department last summer, Thone proposed a theater day camp experience as a new component of the summer program.  His supervisor liked the idea, and “Theater in the Park” was born. 

The purpose of the new program, according to Thone, is to provide a comfortable and welcoming introduction to the theater to children with an interest but little or no performing experience. “Coming into a new experience can seem overwhelming,” he said. But he is intent on countering any initial nervousness.   

Thone wants to ensure that his students gain a broad understanding of theatrical production.  “I want them to understand that there’s more to theater than acting”, he said. He’s ensuring this by teaching them about subjects such as set design and costuming. “They’re also active participants in staging their scenes,” he said, adding that this helps them to look at the play from the director’s perspective.

He fondly remembers that one student, Charlie, came into the camp solidly determined to work on the stage crew. By the end of the first day, he had been inspired to try acting and is now performing one of the featured roles in the show.

Describing a typical day at the camp, Thone said, “We usually start with the theater game.” (improv-based activities that serve as a physical warm-up while teaching the students to react spontaneously.) “It’s much more fun than just listening to me talk.”

All this training will culminate in a live performance (for families only) of “Jack and the Beanstalk” held at the park pavilion in late July.

Thone is thrilled with the program so far. “Growing up in theater, I was constantly inspired by my instructors and directors. It’s been very satisfying to work with the next generation and be able to form them by teaching correct practice, etiquette, and work ethic,” he said. 

Stepping into the teaching role has been exciting for Thone.  “It’s great to take my knowledge and experience and pass it on to others versus being the one who benefits from the expertise of others.” 

He also finds it exciting to be a part of so many firsts.  It’s his first time as an instructor, the first season for “Theater in the Park,” and “Jack and the Beanstalk” is among the first shows to be performed for a live audience after the COVID shutdown.

Thone is proud to see his idea come to life.  He summed up his feelings about the program: “I’m happy to provide a creative outlet for kids who haven’t really been able to experience live theater for eighteen months.”  

And, thanks to Josh Thone, they are getting a great first experience.

Theater – June 2021

Summer Theater Preview

by Jim Romenesko

With all the excitement of a theatre curtain dramatically rising at the top of a show, the Appleton theatre community is edging its way back to normal operations.

 

Although with fewer productions in the hopper and, generally, smaller productions, several companies have announced their summer/early autumn offerings and theatre fans are thrilled at the prospect of attending a live performance in one of their favorite venues.

 

Get out your calendars and mark the dates of the following summer offerings!

 

Attic Chamber Theatre

 

Jeeves at Sea

by Maragret Raether, based on the stories by P.G. Wodehouse, and directed by Tom Stadler.

Recommended for ages 12 and older.

 

7 p.m. July 9, 10, 15, 16, 17 and July 11 at 2 p.m. in the James Perry Hall at UW-Oshkosh Fox Cities (formerly UW-Fox Valley).

 

Set sail for laughter as Bertie Wooster revels in life aboard the Vanderley yacht. Will this madcap case of mistaken identities end in Bertie’s doom — or worse, his marriage? Have no fear; Jeeves will sort it all out.

 

Director Tom Stadler said the show is a delightful romp aboard a ship in 1920s Monte Carlo. It’s the comic dialogue and double entendres of the colorful characters that keep things hopping right to the neatly drawn ending.

 

The Lifespan of a Fact

by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell, and Gordon Farrell, based on the book by John D’agata and Jim Fingal, and directed by Berray Billington. 

Rated PG-13 The play contains frank conversations about suicide, often using humor to offset the drama.

 

7 p.m. Aug. 12, 13, 19, 20, 21 and Aug. 15 at 2 p.m. in the James Perry Hall at UW-Oshkosh Fox Cities 

 

Celebrated author John D’Agata has just written a sublime and shattering magazine essay. But is his story true? And how negotiable are the facts? As the deadline looms, this timely, terrific, brainy Broadway hit wrestles with truth, what constitutes it, and who gets to decide.

 

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit attictheatreinc.com or call 920-734-7887. Tickets on sale June 1. Both shows will be performed live and a streaming option will be available.

 

 

Riverside Players

Godspell

Conceived and originally directed by John-Michael Tebelak, music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, directed by Amanda A. Petersen, with musical director Brittney Baldwin, and choreographer Kyle S. Brauer.

 

8 p.m. July 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30, 31 and 7 p.m. July 25 and Aug. 1

 

Prepare ye for this familiar tale of community, friendship, loyalty, and love. Based on the Gospel of St. Matthew, “Godspell” brings together a group of strangers from all walks of life who learn to build and care for a community together against all odds. Messages of kindness, resilience, unity, tolerance, and love come vibrantly to life through reimagined parables and recognizable songs. This early hit by Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote “Wicked,” will have you toe-tapping and humming! 

 

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit https://www.ci.neenah.wi.us/departments/parks-recreation/riverside-players/ or call Neenah Parks & Rec Deptment at 920-886-6060. The show will be performed for a live audience in the traditional and charming Riverside Park outdoor setting. There will be a limited audience size, social distancing, and masks required.

Theater – May 2021

Xavier Theater’s Path to Reopening

by Jim Romenesko

For the past two months I’ve been writing to tell you about local high school theatre programs that have cautiously moved back to producing after being on “hold” for nearly a year.

This month, I get to tell you about what’s happening at Xavier High School, where I direct the mainstage productions.

Our spring mainstage show is “Spin,” an original musical revue featuring the pop music of the 1960s.  

In case you’re not familiar with the term, a revue is a performance featuring music or other material based on a theme (like the music of the 1960s) or some other unifying element such as music by a specific composer or team. A revue has no “through” story or plot but, instead, relies on the strength of the material and the performance to sell the show.

This spring, many area producers have opted to offer a variety of types of shows to allow their students to experience performing onstage. Most have chosen to present for a mix of live and streaming audiences. Some have chosen one or the other. In many cases, the directors planning to present shows to live audiences have hedged the bet of risking student actors being placed in quarantine by double-casting roles in their shows.

Why did Xavier choose the revue format over a traditional Broadway musical? In short, it was the right decision for us.  

The date the governor set as the first day schools were to be closed — March 18, 2020 — was to be the opening night of our production of “Grease.” Losing all performances of a show which held the promise of a very exciting run (all but one performance had sales of over 90% of capacity) was devastating. I simply couldn’t risk a repeat of that horrible experience for our students this year, and the revue format offers flexibility that is not available with a traditional Broadway musical, allowing us to adapt should one or more performers be quarantined.

One thing that makes me proud of all the directors and programs in the Fox Valley is that each director has chosen the path that is best for his or her students. (Remember that high school theatre is truly an activity created to benefit the students, not the audience.)  

And, according to area directors, the students in their theatre programs have enthusiastically embraced their projects, as have our students at Xavier.

“I have been surrounded with theater my entire life,” said junior Josh Thone. “It was hard not being able to do what I love best during quarantine. This first show back is incredibly fun and rewarding to perform and the best part is it’s all ‘60s music!”

Annie Strick, a freshman performing in her first high school production said, “The fact that I get to do it in person despite COVID is incredible!”

And for seniors heading into the homestretch before graduation, bringing a show to the stage is profoundly important. Izzy Simon sums it up. “I am beyond thrilled to be returning to the stage one last time before I graduate. This year’s show is filled with such lively and fun music which almost immediately gets stuck in your head!”

“Spin” will play at the Xavier Theatre, at 1600 W Prospect Avenue in Appleton, May 5-15.

Visit www.xaviertheatre.com or call 920-733-8840 for tickets.

Theater – April 2021

Appleton North Theater Embraces Hope

by Jim Romenesko

When the pandemic shut down school activities last March, Appleton North Theatre’s planned production of “The Laramie Project” was one of the casualties.

Now, with many local high school theatres carefully reopening their doors, that production is back on track.

“The Laramie Project” was developed by several members of New York’s Tectonic Theatre Project, who interviewed dozens of residents of Laramie after the murder of Matthew Shepard. Shepard, a gay 21-year-old University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, severely beaten, lashed to a fence, and left to die outside Laramie in 1998. Two area men were convicted of the crime, which sparked national and global hate crime legislation.

The interviews were crafted into a stunning theatrical piece in Verbatim Theatre style, which employs direct quotes from the interviews and has been seen by millions around the world since its premiere in 2000. “The play shocks, challenges, and moves all who watch it,” said director Ron Parker, who heads up the North Theatre program. “It reveals the lowest depths of hatred and greatest heights of compassion that lie within all human beings in any seemingly average community.” 

The show was a great choice for a return to full production, said Parker. “Not only is the play’s message even more relevant this year with all that has been seen with the expression of vitriol and hate, as well as the coming together of communities to combat it, the documentary style of the show transfers well to performing under COVID-19 conditions and restrictions.

“But it’s not only a play about a hate crime,” Parker insists. “It’s also a play about hope.”   

And the students have embraced that hope.

Parker cites a principal philosophy of “Sources of Strength,” a national wellness program for schools, in which students are encouraged to be generous with their talents and resources. “By taking on ‘The Laramie Project,’ the cast and crew are focusing on helping others and, by so doing, are helping and healing themselves,” Parker said. 

He says the themes of the play resonate strongly with the young actors. “They are constantly making connections between the events in Laramie and what is happening today,” he said.

In the North production, 21 students portray multiple characters, some directly connected to the murder and some simply members of the Laramie community, bringing forth the undeniable fact that damaging incidents like the Shepard murder cannot help but affect everyone.

“After every performance, there will be a talkback involving members of the community who deal with the problems portrayed in the play on a daily basis,” Parker says. “We hope to begin a dialogue on the issues of acceptance and change hearts and minds in our community.”

“The Laramie Project” will be presented April 29 through May 1. Current plans are to present the show for a limited live audience (subject to changes) and will be live streamed. For tickets, visit www.appletonnorththeatre.org

Upcoming productions 

Brillion High School

“Working” April 22-25, April 29-30, and May 1-2

https://brillionsd.org/high_school/endries_performing_arts_center

Chilton High School

 “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” April 18-20 and 22-24

www.englercenter.com 

 Kimberly High School

“Songs for a New World” April 16-24 

www.kimberlytheatre.com

Xavier High School

“Spin.The pop hits of the early ‘60s” May (Dates TBA)

“Jack & The Beanstalk” May (Dates TBA)

www.xaviertheatre.com

 

Theater – March 2021

Sleeping Giants Begin to Awaken

by Jim Romenesko

 

When Wisconsin schools were shuttered on March 18 of last year, most of us never expected that the situation would extend well into this year. 

But there are signs of hope!

A survey of local high school theatre directors finds many planning streamed or live (some are producing both) shows for this spring.

Most producers are re-opening their venues with shows that feature small to medium-sized casts.  Many are double-casting as a hedge against possible Covid-related problems and to give more actors the opportunity to perform. “The kids are overjoyed,” says one director. Ditto for their audiences!

Another major component of any show, the technical crew, is an important consideration moving forward.  Students move through their high school years quickly and directors will be faced with the challenge of re-training for these critical positions once programs return to normal operation.

As one student put it, “If we didn’t produce a show this spring, we’d be starting next year with two years’ worth of classes who have no production experience whatsoever.”

Here’s a sneak peek at what’s in store as the curtain slowly rises on local school productions.

Appleton North High School 

“Improvedy” Comedy Improv Shows presented March 19, April 16, May 21

“The Laramie Project” presented April 29 through May 1, directed by Ron Parker.

Both shows will be streamed with the possibility of presenting to a small, live audience. Details to be determined.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit:  www.appletonnorththeatre.org

Brillion High School

“Working” (2012 Revised Version) presented April 22 through 25, April 29, 30, May 1 and 2, directed by Jonathan Kobs. The production will be presented for a live audience.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit:  https://brillionsd.org/high_school/endries_performing_arts_center.  (information will be available in the near future.)

Chilton High School

 “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” presented April 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, and 24. The show will be streamed and presented for a limited live audience. Tickets to attend in person are only available through cast members. 

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit:  www.englercenter.com 

Kimberly High School

“Songs for a New World” directed by Todd Wegner. Presented April 16 through 24. The show will be streamed and presented for a live audience.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: www.kimberlytheatre.com

 St. Mary Catholic High School

“Anything Goes” Directed by Hayden Kraus. March 12-14. The show will be available to stream on-demand 

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: SMCSFineArts.org

Xavier High School

“Spin – the pop hits of the early ‘60’s.”  A musical revue directed by Jim Romenesko. The show will be available to stream on demand in late April.

Xavier will also present its annual radio play (title TBD), a senior showcase and a children’s show (both in May).

Theater – Jan/Feb 2021

Thriving Through Innovation

by Jim Romenesko

The current hold on live arts performances has impacted thousands across the country.

But Lance and Kimberly Lewis of Champion Video have found that their production services are very much in demand as performing groups adapt.

Champion Video is among the premiere video production companies in the region, filming and producing videos for more than seventy events each year. Among them are Appleton Boychoir’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, Xavier’s High School’s Christmas Stars and Passion Play, Life Promotion’s Lifest!, and many area dance recitals, figure skating shows, and competitions.

“The majority of our work is in Northeast Wisconsin,” says Lewis.  “However, we 
do have some companies that fly us all over the country to capture their events.”

But a drastic change occurred last March when events were canceled due to the pandemic.

“When Covid hit, all of our events got canceled,” says Lewis. “My wife and I started talking about what we could do to pivot. Everything was on the table. We reached out to all of our clients to see what their needs were.”

One client, Rana Poley from NEW Fusion Dance in Green Bay asked if Champion
could put together a virtual dance recital. 

“We came up with a way for parents to film their dancers at home and upload to our servers. We then would edit those videos to make it look like they were dancing together.”

But how could the video experts get all the individual parents to stand in as camera operators?

Lewis used what he knew. “I made a short video of what we were going to do along with a sample, and within a few days we were getting calls from dance schools from all over the country,” he says.

By the time the spring dance recital season was over, the Champion team had seven thousand individual dance videos, all filmed on their parents’ iPhones and sent to Champion. 

And that was only the beginning.

Mishicot High School contracted Champion to produce part of their fall show, the Appleton Boychoir enlisted them to produce a “best of” televised program, and “Christmas Stars,” who’ve used Champion exclusively for almost a decade, took on a very ambitious project, knowing that Champion would partner with them on their first large-scale video project.  “We filmed on five separate days and spent over 150 hours editing. But at the end of the day, we were able to put together an amazing-looking show while keeping the performers safe,” says Lewis. “It was a very different way for us to work.”

How does Champion garner such a high level of loyalty and trust among their clients?

Lewis says he and Kimberly form a relationship with every customer. “I tell them that we aim to be professional, reliable, and affordable so that they don’t have to worry about who 
they are going to have do their video for their event year after year.”

“I think it’s the small stuff really. We answer our phones and we respond to emails and 
texts as quickly as possible. We want our clients to feel like working with Champion Video is a worry- and hassle-free experience.”

Theater – December 2020

Sounds Like Christmas

by Jim Romenesko

When Kieran Wallace walked onto the stage to appear in his first production at five years old, little did he know that eighteen years later, he’d play a key role in an innovative new version of that same production.

The show was “Christmas Stars” and Wallace, now a professional sound designer, is back at work on the production, this time in an important behind the scenes role, as the show is produced in a new, streaming format as the result of the Covid crisis.

“I’ve been involved in music and theatre nearly my entire life, largely thanks to both my parent’s and grandparents’ love of music and the arts,” said Wallace, now 23. “However, I remember middle school being the time when I developed a true sense of passion for music and theatre by consciously wanting to better myself as a musician and performer. I got involved in as many projects as possible.”

As graduation from St. Norbert College approached, Wallace felt he should pursue post-grad study to build on his degree in Music. “My path to working in audio production was definitely not a linear one,” he mused. Having only worked on the sound crew for one college production, his next taste of audio work came while he was creating his application portfolio for the grad school program just months before the deadline.  

“As I got further into the portfolio requirements,” he says, “I knew that it was something I could see myself getting into. I taught myself the basics, while also learning from family and friends. Once I had my first few graduate-level classes, I never looked back and was in love with the field of work.”

Wallace credits his grad program at Berklee College of Music, which is based in Spain, with giving him a solid foundation and the right attitude for work in the competitive area of sound design by emphasizing collaboration. “Everyone was looking to develop themselves further by learning from each other’s unique musical approach and personal background,” he said. “I had industry-leading studios, equipment, professors, and peers all at my fingertips while experiencing the culture of Spain and Western Europe at the same time.”

Upon returning to the U.S., He was hired almost immediately by Paradyme Productions in Madison, a recording studio producing projects ranging from recording and producing solo artists and bands, to podcasts, commercial jingles, movie dialogue, audio books, and educational content.

”A typical workday for me almost never looks the same as the last,” Wallace says, “which keeps my job full of excitement and possibilities.” 

But the Covid crisis has impacted the recording business as much as other businesses and activity at the Madison studio is down a bit.  So when it was decided to present “Christmas Stars” as a streaming production, it was natural to include Wallace on the technical production team, joining musical director Peter Leschke, sound engineer Van Vehrs and the video team from Champion Video in Greenville. 

“Before this year, I had experienced Christmas Stars both as a cast member in the show and a stagehand. It’s an honor to be able to lend my gifts and talents to the production this year, especially when we are dealing with such limiting world circumstances,” he said. “I never thought I would see Christmas Stars from this viewpoint, especially working alongside those who I’ve known as the people making it happen ever since I was a kid.”

 

Theater – November 2020

An Island of Creativity in a Sea of Crisis

by Jim Romenesko

 

When the going gets tough, Stephanie Kapsa, a music teacher in the Appleton Area School District, gets going.

When faced with what she describes as “the inequities caused by online learning” and frustrations felt when thrust into the world of online learning last spring due to the Covid crisis, she decided to take action.

In a normal, in-person learning situation, students use the school’s musical instruments. In an online learning situation, students can only access what they have at home. “For a lot of kids, it was very limited,” Kapsa said.

“As a music educator, I work hard to teach the kids that music can help them through the good and bad things in life,” she said. “With the world feeling chaotic and the amount of change going on, I felt music was more important now than ever before. I wanted all students to have a way to create music.”

She decided to get kits of musical instruments into the hands of the students. But how could she and her fellow instructors make this magic happen for every student in Kindergarten through Grade 6 in the district? “There were many, many individuals who came together to help us pull off this huge undertaking,” says Kapsa.  

“Renee Ulman, AASD Fine Arts Coordinator, secured funding through the district leadership team and school sites. Music teachers Jennifer Griffith, Melissa Fields, Kadie Smith, Becky O’Brien, and Wendy Pitts, collaborated on what the kits should have and how to put them together,” she said. All AASD general music teachers gave their input on the project.

Kapsa credits AASD and Ulman, in particular, for her support of the project and moving quickly to make the vision a reality. “Without them this would not have happened,” she said. 

Kapsa’s team enlisted an impressive range of community resources to bring the project to fruition.

Heid Music worked with vendors to secure the large quantity of instruments needed, offered affordable pricing, and delivered all instruments to local churches for assembly.

In what can aptly be described as a textbook example of cooperation, The Mission Church of Appleton and First English Lutheran Church offered workspaces.  Church members, music teachers, Lawrence music education student teachers, and Renee Ulman helped to put the kits together. The Community Church of Appleton delivered kits to each of the Elementary Schools.  

Overall, about one hundred volunteers assisted with the project. Kapsa’s own family was enlisted to help, as well.  Husband Nick, son Barrett, age 8, and daughter Reese, age 6, and even Nick’s mom, Becky, all pitched in. “Nick was made aware of the duties and responsibilities of being a music teacher’s spouse early on in our dating life,” she said, laughing. “The kids are now learning what their roles will be.” 

7,500 student received music kits and Kapsa and her colleagues are thrilled with the result. “So far, the kids have been over the moon about their music kits! I love seeing all the excitement and pride in playing their instruments,” she said. “Now our lessons can incorporate many of the things we would teach in person. I personally have had a blast rocking and rolling with the kiddos during our live meets every week.”

Theater – October 2020

The End of an Era

by Jim Romenesko

Record-breaking Broadway blockbusters can’t hold a candle to the nearly sixty-year run of one of Appleton’s classiest acts, Marcia Fellows of Marcia’s School of Dance.

Citing the effects of the Covid crisis on businesses in general and the performing arts in particular, Miss Marcia, as she is known by thousands of former students, has made the difficult decision to close her popular dance studio.

“Last week was really tough,” said Fellows, who operated the school with her daughter, Juliana Van Asten. “We would have begun our fall classes,” she mused. “We’ve come a long way since 1961.”

“After I had my second child, I decided I wanted to teach dance,” Miss Marcia reminisced.  “I held classes at the Freedom VFW, beginning with about twenty students.  That first season ended with a free recital held at the VFW hall in front of borrowed black curtains hung by family and friends.

“I really started with practically nothing – but I had a dream and wanted something better for the students and myself,” she said.

And her determination, dedication, and winning personality earned unending support from friends and family as the business grew. 

 “I can remember relatives painting scenery under the trees at my grandparent’s farm and then hauling the pieces across town in my grandfather’s coal-delivery truck,” she said with a smile.

Soon, the classes were moved to her parent’s home at the current Longview Drive location.  “I taught on the cement floor of the basement,” she remembered. “I waxed it to fill in the chips and cracks.” 

It wasn’t long before a bona fide studio wing was added to the house.

Her love for teaching was evident then as it is now.  “Working with young people,” she said, “you’re not only teaching how to dance, but to have self-respect, to work well with others, and to build self-confidence. Seeing a young person grow in those traits – that’s got to be one of the best compliments you could have,” she said.

This noble approach made Miss Marcia’s studio one of the most popular in the region.  And to top it off, she had a secret weapon – her mom.  

Miss Julie, as she was known by all at the studio, worked tirelessly to promote the school and when her efforts paid off in a record number of new students, she laced up her dance shoes and hit the floor to assist with teaching.  

“If a student came in fifteen minutes early, they didn’t sit around,” Marcia recalled with a smile.  “Miss Julie had them on the dance floor for extra lessons.”

Asked about her proudest moment, she doesn’t hesitate. “In 2001, we started a class for students with disabilities.  I’ll never forget the first time those girls performed for the other students at a dress rehearsal.  The kids and parents went wild, cheering like crazy.  My daughter and I stood backstage and wept.”

And that generous and innovative spirit has been officially recognized by the organization “Celebrating Abilities.”  A plaque in the studio honors Marcia and Juliana for “making a difference in the community by enhancing the way people with disabilities can develop and celebrate their abilities.”

Since the closing was announced, Marcia and Juliana have received “a great outpouring of memories, support and notes from former students.”  One that sums it up reads: “I wouldn’t be the person I am if it weren’t for you.”   

Thank you and brava, Miss Marcia, on life’s work well done!