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Theater set to perform “High School Musical” despite initial cancellation and concern over lack of teacher stipends

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The MVHS theater department is set to perform “High School Musical” this year, despite its initial cancellation, after a push from students, parents, and community members.

On Friday, Nov. 17, days after parents, students, and members of the local theater community spoke at the Nov. 13 MVLA school board meeting to advocate for the musical, Principal Dr. Kip Glazer announced that the musical was reinstated, despite the lack of stipends available to pay performing arts teachers.

A month before this announcement, on Oct. 16, MVHS theater students were informed that there would be no musical for the 2023-24 school year.

“We had not seen this coming,” junior Sierra Kelly said. “‘Little Shop of Horrors’ last year was a big success. We nearly sold out all four performances, [and] the community was really supportive, more than 80 students participated.”

Sierra Kelly was the stage manager for the theater department’s production of “Delay,” and has stage managed the last five shows at MVHS. 

She is also co-president of the theater council, which governs the classes within the theater department, and president of theater club.

The theater council took several steps of action in an attempt to get the Musical reinstated, including posts to the “Save Our Musical” Instagram page, a drafted letter to Superintendent Dr. Nellie Meyer, and encouragement from parents and students to write respectful, well-worded letters to the administration in support of the musical.

In October, members of the theater council met with Dr. Glazer to discuss the reasons for the cancellation.

According to Sierra Kelly, students were told that the musical was canceled because all of the EPDs, extra-pay-extra-duties or stipends, had been used up, and there was not enough money allocated to pay performing arts teachers to put on a musical.

Sierra Kelly said that the theater council was told that all the stipends had been used up for other activities like sports.

Dr. Glazer clarified that the only way to pay teachers for a musical is through stipends, and fundraising by the MVHS theater program would not solve the issue of missing EPED (extra-pay for extra-duty) allocations.

Dan Kelly, parent of Sierra Kelly, spoke at the Nov. 13 board meeting and said that he believes the lack of stipends should be a “solvable problem” in the long run.

“The performing arts are important. They’re important to the students who participate, it’s a big deal,” Dan Kelly said. “It fills a role for those kids that sports do for other kids.” 

Sierra Kelly spoke as well, to advocate for the establishment of a consistent and secure system for ensuring yearly musicals in the future.

She expressed theater students’ discontent with how the initial cancellation of the musical had been handled by administrators.

“I’m just confused about how an activity that matters so much to so many students could be canceled,” Sierra Kelly said. “We’re frustrated by the amount of confusion and chaos there’s been. It’s been really stressful for students and teachers, with all this uncertainty.”

Several more MVHS parents spoke at the board meeting, in support of creating a clear policy for ensuring a yearly musical. 

“This was not because of lack of funds or lack of support from faculty or students or family, but because there was not a system in place to compensate our staff in an appropriate, union-approved, fair, and equitable way,” parent Efsun Sweet said.

Members of the broader Bay Area theater community spoke to the school board as well, to emphasize the importance of supporting the performing arts.

“What I want to impress upon you tonight is that high school theater isn’t just about putting on a show,” Sarah Duggan, a local theater teacher, vocal director, and choreographer, said. “It’s about building lifelong relationships. It’s also about identifying and honing skills that apply to all types of work, not just theater.”

Days after the school board meeting, it was announced that the musical would be reinstated, which sophomore Parth Agarwala and junior Malinda Jenkins said sparked “mixed feelings” among theater students.

“We’re so happy that it worked,” Jenkins said. “But at the same time, we were a little confused about how it worked.”

Jenkins and Agarwala both spoke at the board meeting and were active participants in the effort to reinstate the musical.

Despite concern and confusion over how teachers will be compensated for their work in “High School Musical,” Agarwala said he is confident that the theater department will put on an amazing performance. 

He said that some of the theater department’s success can be attributed to director and theater teacher Pancho Morris’s dedication to the program. The “High School Musical” is now set to premier Mar. 15, and the preparation for 3 showings has already begun.

“I’ve worked with Mr. Morris for multiple productions and I know that if he’s working on some project, he’s going to work his a** off for that, and I know that they will be able to pull off a great show,” Agarwala said.

 

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About the Contributor
Hanna Olson, Editor-in-Chief
Hanna is a senior and serves as an editor-in-chief (print focus) for the Oracle. Outside of school, she enjoys playing basketball, going to the gym, and going to the beach with friends.
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