Beth Bales: Geneva High School Theater Boosters Enter STAGE Right

An informational meeting on a new volunteer group to support Geneva High School's theater program will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday. All interested theater backers are welcome.

There are Sports Boosters groups at both the middle school and high school levels to provide not only financial but also logistical support and backing for the sports programs. Informally, there are groups that help out the various specific sports.

The Geneva Music Boosters is a districtwide support group that raises funds to support the music program at all levels, including buying instruments and purchasing music and other items. 

And now, there is a theater support group, as well.

An informational meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, at the Geneva Fire Department headquarters station, 200 East Side Drive.

On the agenda: “brainstorming and getting organized for the school year,” said Marjie Grischow, who is one of the leaders of the effort. The other is Steve Olson. (Note: He's my husband.)

The impetus for forming the group? There is no such existing group specifically for drama, and there is a need for one, Olson said.

"So often, we would see the directors having to fulfill a number of roles, and many of those tasks could be done by parent volunteers," he said. Those jobs include set construction, costuming, creating playbills and programs, among others.

“If there were volunteers to help, it would take the burden off of the director, who’s trying to juggle all those balls."

And there currently is no group that supports what goes on inside the auditorium, from a theatrical standpoint, and the productions themselves.

"Geneva High School has some immensely talented young people—and we want to support them," Olson said. 

As is the case with all kinds of extracurricular activities, Olson and Grischow knew parents and teen participants in arts programs at high schools throughout the area, including Batavia High School. The drama booster group there is called STAGE, for Supporting Theatre Arts for a Greater Education,” and was formed in October 2005 "to support, encourage, maintain and promote BHS theatrical productions."

That group provided a model to look at. And an Internet search turned up a slew of similar booster groups. Grischow and Olson then met with school administrators and staff involved with the school’s theatrical productions, who backed the idea. Scrambling, because registration packets were about to go out, they wrote an information sheet and registration form to send out with high school registration information, with donation-membership levels of $25, $50 or $75. That’s seed money to get the group going and help with production costs.

As of a few weeks ago, 55 families had signed up. Among them are sure to be even a few families such as ours, who no longer have children involved. Why? Because our kids benefitted by participating in drama at GHS. We want other kids to benefit, as well.

Debbie Hanson is another parent of graduates who is enthusiastically backing the new endeavor. Children Jenny and Chris were very involved in theater, and continue to be when they can.

"But it's never just been about their involvement," Hanson said. "Their experiences in theater helped to make them who they are. There is so much more to be learned from theater besides just putting on a good show! Diction, memorization, body language, body presence, dealing with the unexpected, rising above social issues, the sense of accomplishment after a performance" are just some of the other factors that come into play.

"The arts are not only very under-funded, they are very under-appreciated as an educational tool," she said, adding, "I want to make sure the opportunity continues to exist and expand for future generations of students at GHS."

Of course, this group isn’t only for the actors. Productions can include the musicians for the spring musical, plus all the kids who work backstage. This group encompasses them all. 

Those interested in learning more about the group are invited to Wednesday evening’s meeting.

And the "Theatre Boosters" name? It’s temporary. Anyone who has a snappy acronym such as “STAGE” is invited to submit a possibility!


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