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      There's a new music teacher at the Wellsboro High School. He's stepping into the shoes of Judy Smithgall. I don't know what his shoe size is, but he is faced with a huge challenge. Any time one follows an icon like Mrs. Smithgall one is up against a lot. Remember, she was at WAHS for decades, having stepped into the shoes of another Wellsboro icon Pat Davis.

      One positive is that there is a tradition that is in place and though some traditions can be stifling and limiting, this tradition has established that music is an ok thing...in fact, a good thing...even in a district that has an unbalanced emphasis on sports.

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      A week ago the HG Choirs sang” the National Anthem at the Little League World Series in Williamsport. We've been doing this since 2001...less than a month before the 9/11 attack. It seemed especially meaningful to stand before thousands of people and sing a song that stands for unity and healthy order. Yes, I realize it was written during and refers to a battle situation, but the song has woven its way into a national consciousness that somehow provides a focus for civil intercourse.

      We stand on the pitcher's mound and following the Little League pledge by a young player and a pledge by a coach, we sing. “O say... can you see?” calling attention to a time when hope seemed lost and the country was faced with huge challenges and attacks. The thousands of people are quiet, the only time during the whole day when a moment of stillness reigns. It's a collective quiet, a community stillness.

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      I saw FUN HOME at Millbrook Playhouse near Loch Haven last week. These thoughts are less about the powerful impact this production had on me than on a strong encouragement to attend theatre wherever you can.

      I could go on and on about the incredible actors in this very contemporary musical. Yeah, a musical...but on the order of NEXT TO NORMAL. There is no cutesy sentimentality about this musical; it's all grit and punch. Based on a graphic novel, it chronicles the coming-of-age of a young woman who grows up in a funeral home (the siblings would play in the coffins...fun!) and discovers little by little that she is a lesbian. Did I mention this is a true story? Add to that the fact that her father is a closeted gay man who must deal with his own fears and secrets and conflicts and you have what one wouldn't normally consider fodder for a musical. No song and dance here; oh, wait, yes there is one over the top happy chorus number with the cast of seven that actually mocks the put on a happy face typically found in such a number. The rest...oh, man...it's powerful.

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      Each summer we welcome one or two young people who work for nearly three months in all aspects of the HG production process. They are always involved with the summer camp program—this year there were three camps in Elkland, Blossburg, and Wellsboro—and in whatever productions and programs we're working on.

      Katey Pacific and Jay Ritter worked hard all summer and wore a variety of hats. Besides traveling to each of the camps and working with upwards of sixty lively kids, they threw themselves into the big summer musical MAME, performed on the MU campus. They each helped with hauling all the set pieces/furniture, lumber, tools, paint over from Wellsboro.  Both were IN the show. They worked on costuming the whole thing—a cast of over 40. And they did this all in the evenings while camp was going on during the day! Then came the tedious job of putting everything away. (I don't like that part of the job!)

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      It’s wonderful to work with people who have worked with other directors. The rehearsal process becomes something new—we’re traveling a new road together. A few times one of them has indicated that this is not what they are accustomed to; not in a complaining way, just a statement…and I think an acknowledgement of being willing to take the new road.

      After reading through the whole play for the first time together, I encouraged them never to say those lines in the way they just read them. Try something new each time. I’ve said this before in rehearsals with mixed results. The next rehearsal, sure enough, the lines were read in completely new and different ways. I found myself thinking—whoa, why are you saying these lines that way? Realizing they were actually doing what I had asked I settled in for even more assurance that we were in for a ride with this process. Each time we read through a scene that next rehearsal, the lines were read differently. It was a freeing experience—a bit scary— sort of free-falling.

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