The cast of characters in a play or musical is often referred to as an ensemble. At Wyoming Area, which is preparing to stage the musical “Mamma Mia,” the cast and crew refers to themselves by another word — family.
Attending a rehearsal, it doesn’t take long to see the parallels to family emerge. There are siblings who support each other, share chores and sometimes fight. It’s a safe place where students have unconditional support and can be themselves.
“When I started in ninth grade, I didn’t talk to anybody. I was so shy,” said Albert Hite. “But here everyone is so open. It’s where I come to let go.”
He’s not shy anymore. Now a senior, club leader and male lead, Hite is like a big brother to the younger students in this year’s production.
Holding it all together are parents — in this case, Chuck Yarmey and Kate Mangan — who nurture, educate, push and mold. Yarmey is the drama club advisor and technical director. He started as a volunteer carpenter, working on sets when his daughter, Emily, now a graduate of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, was a club member. When there was no one else to do it, Yarmey stayed on and took the reins. He spends weekends building scenery and mentoring young techies like Grace Jeffery, a senior who will major in entertainment technology at Millersville University. Jeffery has been in the club since seventh grade and, under Yarmey’s eye, has learned every job from set construction to sound tech to lighting.
“Mr. Yarmey has been an incredible mentor and teacher. He has pushed me to do great things every chance he could and helped me find my dream of continuing theater in the future,” Jeffery said.
It’s a credit to Yarmey that he has an army of loyal parents, current and alum, who help him and the 30-plus crew kids. There are parents like Bill Menta, whose daughter, Emily, is a senior media production major at Temple, and Dawn Marie Crake, who is on hand seven days a week to help the kids make costumes and props. Her daughter, Sarah, graduated with a degree in theater from Albright College.
Parents of current students also lend a hand, like Jenn Vogel, who is helping daughters Laureen and Gabby choreograph the show, and Keight Whittaker, who painted a piece of scenery to look exactly like a mosaic of a wave.
Parents also raise money for the unfunded show — estimated to cost around $20,000. They provide food for kids during tech week, and they have purchased needed equipment that the district can’t afford, like a sound board and cyclorama.
Mangan, a former Wyoming Area Drama kid and graduate of Temple with a degree in theater, is creative director. Her biggest challenge is making sure every student in the ensemble heavy show has a chance to shine.
“No class in college prepares you for this,” she said, referring to the 70 kids on stage.
She has tracked every dancer with a chart, asking Yarmey to add a piece where needed so everyone can be seen. But there is more to directing than moving people on a stage. The kids must understand their characters, who are usually far older than they.
“This show gives a positive look at women and the consequences of the past. When people come back into your life. They (the drama kids) will deal with these relationships 20 years from now. The show is about reinventing yourself and it’s important for them to hear. Important to see what their parents are going through now as they graduate. We talk about this. I want it to be more meaningful than just a rock concert,” Mangan said.
There are many life lessons learned in a drama club.
“There is nothing else like it,” said senior Stephanie Palovchak, who plays the female lead, Donna. “You come together with people you’d never know and you do a show. People are not as bad as you think, so always be open.
Palovchak, who will attend DeSales University to major in musical theater, added drama club “brought me out of my shell. It showed me that I can do it. (I can) reach my full potential.”
The show goes up April 5 & 6 at 7PM and April 7 at 2. Advanced ticket sales for reserved seating will be April 1-4 from 6-8PM in the school lobby.