On the night of April 5, 2019, the Catoctin High School (CHS) auditorium was filled with parents, students, and members of the community, anxiously awaiting the opening performance of Catoctin’s musical, The Pajama Game. It was a huge success. Even the principal of nine years, Bernie Quesada, remarked that it was one of the best productions he had ever seen at Catoctin High. With all this positive energy surrounding the drama department, it is shocking to think that just five years ago, Catoctin offered little to students interested in theater.
In 2015, after the departure of long-time director Mrs. Stietly, the theater program fell on hard times. With little student interest, enrollment in theatre classes dropped, and it became hard to fill roles in musicals and plays. In the 2015-2016 school year, there was no play and no musical. In the years following, only small-scale productions were undertaken. Show attendance dropped, and sometimes there was only one showing of each production.
Finally, this past school year, Evan Felmet (CHS music teacher) and his wife, Stephanie Felmet (CHS technology specialist), took on the challenge of rebuilding the drama program. They started by directing a full-length Broadway-style musical. Due to their active recruiting and clever use of resources, there was a fantastic three-performance run of a classic 1950’s musical, The Pajama Game.
Great productions are just a part of Catoctin High’s revamped drama program. Mr. and Mrs. Felmet have also created much excitement by reviving a theater class that focuses on acting and stagecraft. This class helped to put on a fall production of the mystery play Murder by the Book. Students who are interested in theater may also join the International Thespian Society, an honor society for recognized and accomplished actors all over America. “They help with a lot of organization and community outreach for the drama program,’’ said Mr. Felmet. The drama department also hosts a talent show each year to fundraise and to allow additional students at CHS to showcase their talents.
But, even with a director, actors, and crew, a production just isn’t right without an audience. The community plays an essential role in the Catoctin High School theatre program.
Members of the community purchase ads in the program, hang posters in their shops, donate costumes and props, and attend various performances. Because Catoctin is one of the smallest schools in the county, it takes a community to be able to provide these opportunities for students. To donate to this wonderful theater program or if you are looking for opportunities to volunteer, please contact the director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This spring brings a wonderful opportunity to watch this talented group of kids perform the Rogers and Hammerstien’s musical State Fair on March 27 at 7:00 p.m., and on March 28 at 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
This growing theater program helps offer a variety of activities to students. “I’ve got a lot of very dramatic students in every sense of the word,” says Mr. Felmet, “and it’s a way for students who wouldn’t really have an outlet otherwise to find out what kind of person they are.’’
While some students find satisfaction on the athletic field and some find it in the classroom, many students are now finding fulfillment on the stage.
Catoctin High School’s production of Murder by the Book.
Photo Courtesy of Mike Miller Photography