by Jonathan Weaver
While ‘Beauty’ will be taming the ‘Beast’ on the Armstrong Senior High School stage this Spring, ‘Mary Poppins’ will be singing tunes such as “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” in West Shamokin High School.
But, local family and friends will only be able to see one, as both school musicals are scheduled for the weekend of March 17.
About a half-dozen West Shamokin Drama Club students, along with their parents, attended last night’s Armstrong School District open-caucus session to address the scheduling overlap.
West Shamokin Senior Larissa Kijowski (who was cast as a “doll” in the ‘Mary Poppins’ ensemble) told board directors Armstrong musical officials were told about West Shamokin’s opening night during the second week of May.
“On October 10 this school year, they got back to us and said that they were performing ‘Beauty and the Beast’ March 17 and 18 – which is the exact two days that we are performing ‘Mary Poppins’ at West Shamokin,” Kijowski said. “We’re not saying that this was intentional, but there are several students including myself who feel very distraught about this. We do not think that there should be competition between two separate plays.”
Armstrong High Band Director/Technical Coordinator Jason Venesky assured Kijowski and parents that the overlap was not intentional. He explained that at least five factors – including standardized testing, athletic schedules and at least two dozen other scheduled musical department/auditorium events during the Spring semester– went Armstrong High’s scheduling decision.
“We basically arrived to one week where we could do (‘Beauty and the Beast’),” Venesky concluded. “Ideally, Armstrong and West Shamokin would arrive at two different performance dates that would not conflict, but unfortunately this year it didn’t happen.”
He applauded West Shamokin for entering onto the school musical scene – after debuting with ‘Annie’ this past Spring -, but said “they have to realize that their schedule doesn’t dictate that of Armstrong’s – and vice versa.
“Each school’s its own entity.”
Kijowski argued for a ‘district’ mentality – that the community would continue to be split.
“How is it not a competition if we think of each school as an individual and not one community coming together?” Kijowski asked.
Parents and students at the meeting also expressed that they –and teachers – would like to attend both productions, but under the current schedule would not be able to – which could hinder ticket sales at both schools, parent Nicole Fowler expressed. She estimated most of ticket sales from ‘Annie’ was used to purchase the ‘Mary Poppins’ license.
Armstrong School District Superintendent Chris DeVivo said administrators became aware of the issue earlier this week and will continue to look into the scheduling conflict. He told attendees to look forward to a resolution possibly as early as Monday’s regular board meeting.
School Board President Joseph Close understood when the spring musicals occurred during the same weekend when both Kittanning Senior High and Ford City Junior/Senior High schools were still open, but didn’t in this case.
“We don’t really need to have these kind of conflicts,” Close said. “When we had four high schools (Kittanning, Ford City, Elderton and West Shamokin), I don’t think it was as much of an issue – now that we’re down to two, you think it would be a little easier and manageable.
“Scheduling dates like this I don’t think should be a problem. I think we should be able to communicate enough so this isn’t an issue. Whether it be an oversight this time or not, we’ll work through it and see what we can do.”
West Shamokin musical rehearsals begin Monday.