By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Region – The idea of a few teachers and parents to share their love of musical theater with students became a summertime tradition that's still popular a quarter of a century later. The 25th anniversary of the Summer Drama Workshop was celebrated with “A Blast from the Past,” presented June 29 at Hudson High School (HHS) Auditorium. The alumni revue featured over 50 original cast members recreating their tuneful highlights of 24 shows.
Directing the workshop's early productions was Lynne Johnson, now the executive director of the River's Edge Arts Alliance.
“Jan Patterson had been working to help add some arts programs to the Hudson school system along with parents, including Leslie Perlmutter,” she explained. “My husband, Paul, was teaching music and drama at HHS and I was doing a lot of directing.
The four of us got together and discussed starting a drama workshop in the summer.”
In its first season, the workshop produced two musicals: “Snow White” for elementary and middle school students, and “Camelot” for students in high school through college age. Approximately 60 students participated.
“At that time, it was called the Hudson Drama Workshop,” Lynne noted, “but there were a few students from out of town as well. It was open to anyone.”
Now, theater enthusiasts from throughout central Massachusetts participate. Enrolled in this summer's workshop are 134 students from 15 communities including Hudson, Marlborough, Northborough, Shrewsbury, Southborough and Westborough.
A committee was formed to organize the 25th reunion show. A Facebook page attracted the call for workshop alumni from near and far. Among the returnees were three of the first year's “Camelot” cast members: Diana Casavecchia, Rob Nierintz and Barbara Powers.
“Over the 25 years, only one show has been done twice: “Anything Goes,”” Lynne said.
For the alumni revue, she partnered two sets of the show's three main characters to form a sextet, singing the song “Friendship.”
The current summer workshop offers programs for four age ranges. Each program will culminate with a performance at HHS.
Little Theater, a two-week program for grades one through three, will present “The Ugly Duckling” Friday, July 12 at 1 p.m.
“”The Ugly Duckling” is part of the curriculum for that age group, so they'se extending their learning over the summer,” Lynne explained. “It includes a lot of lessons for kids, so it's more than just putting on a show; they'se learning skills they can use outside of this program.”
Theater Too, a three-week program for grades three through five, will perform “Disney's Jungle Book, Kids” the same afternoon with the Little Theater production.
“At that age they'se less shy and more confident,” Lynne said. “Working in an ensemble has a lot of elements that are very important for their growth.”
Middle school students meet for three weeks in the Children's Theater program, which will stage “Peter Pan (School Edition)” Thursday, July 18, and Friday, July 19, at 7 p.m.
“They'se still young enough to be excited about something and yet they'se maturing, too,” Lynn said. “There's this whole raw energy they have that I don's see in any other age group.”
Youth Theater is a five-week program for grades nine through 12. Those students will perform “Legally Blonde: the Musical” Friday, July 26, and Saturday, July 27, at 7:30 p.m.
“There are a lot of great theater programs in high schools throughout this area,” Lynne said. “These students are looking for something to do in the summertime. This is the perfect program for them.”
Tickets for all shows will be available at the door or can be purchased in advance. For information, call 978-562-1646 or visitupwitharts.org.
Photos/Ed Karvoski Jr.