GREENE — Along with Music in our Schools Month, March is typically abuzz with activity among drama clubs in many area school districts. A gem among them, the Greene Central School’s Footlights drama club is renowned for some of the most compelling set construction in its past productions, and this year is no different.
This weekend, GCS Footlights will fire up the limelights for its rendition of the classic “Beauty and the Beast,” slated for March 24 to 26 at the GCS auditorium, located at the high school campus on 40 Canal Street in the Village of Greene.
What makes Footlights productions so unique? Community involvement from dedicated volunteers working alongside an amped-up cast of students ranging in grades 6 through 12, a rarity as most high school musicals are concerned. Typically, only students in grades 9 through 12 are tapped for roles, but Greene Footlights doesn’t do “typical.” Footlights performances are a community spectacle with a niche for all to fill.
In addition to the natural talent of up-and-coming thespians and a crack squad of theatrical techies, community volunteers such as Tim Heisler lend their labor and love of the stage in support of GCS’s theatrical successes. Volunteers like Heisler can often be found in the middle of the school day throughout the month of March, on stage quietly working on various aspects of the set in a true testament of his dedication.
“It all started for me when I took an elective class here in Greene — Introduction to Theater course — in which we put on a production. That led me to joining Footlights for good,” said Heisler. “I found the camaraderie and sense of accomplishment as rewarding as any sport I ever played.”
“This one is a big production and has a very special meaning to us both,” said Heisler. “What I find very impressive are the many who have done this longer than us. Most, like us, no longer have kids of their own on stage, yet they continue to give their time.”
The Heislers serve as just one example of the close-knit community fabric that weaves together the Greene Footlights.
By all accounts, what sets Footlights’ performances apart from the usual flair of typical school plays is in the details and grandeur. The sets are intricate, detailed, and massive. For instance, one central set piece for the upcoming “Beauty and the Beast” show is nothing short of impressive: a two-story high realistic castle that captivates by drawing the audience into the storyline as if they were experiencing the plot first-person. Magical to say the least.
But it’s not magic. To create a set of this magnitude takes hundreds of combined hours of building, collaborating, planning and — ahem — teaching.
If the road to the perfect Footlights production is paved through the generosity of public volunteers, that road is lined with roses in the form of GCS staff that immerse themselves with bringing it all together. Steve Boel, Greene High School Band Director and husband to Mrs. Amanda Boel, acts as set designer for Footlights. Painstaking hours of embellishment and detailed painting go into each set piece, and for Mr. Boel, it’s a labor of love.
Echoing a gratuitous sentiment of Footlights community volunteers, Mr. Boel said, “The neat thing is that we have many parents of former students, who in some cases graduated over a decade ago, that continue to help because they just love to do it.”
Boel agrees that this peculiar dynamic of voluntary expertise produces a bond of genuine community theater vibes that becomes stronger and more refined with each passing season.
“Teamwork is the big emphasis here,” said Mr. Boel. “While we each have an area of expertise, it would be almost impossible to get everything done if not for the help of others.”
Eager to experience Greene Footlights “Beauty and the Beast” in person? The show goes on for three performances only: Opening night, Friday, March 24 at 7 p.m.; Saturday March 25 at 7 p.m.; and a matinee curtain call on Sunday, March 26 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, ages four and under free.
-Information provided by DCMO BOCES