Written by Jill Nossa Thursday, 13 June 2013 00:00
This weekend, the North Shore Vikings Masquers Club is celebrating their 50th anniversary with a special gala, an event that will include more than 140 alumni, students and a 36-piece orchestra, promising to be a spectacular experience.
“We are celebrating five decades with a unique American art form,” says David Soto, band director of the North Shore High School.
The gala was conceived as a way to celebrate 50 years of musicals on the North Shore stage and raise funds to revive the Summer Theater Workshop, which ran for 42 years before funding was cut from the school budget.
The event honors the Viking Masquers troupe founding advisors: director Bruce Mooney, music director Bennett Lentczner and technical director Robert Hooban. The program begun by these three dedicated teachers has given thousands of students hands-on experience in hundreds of productions and has launched numerous careers in the performing arts. But even graduates who have chosen other careers credit their Masquers experiences with teaching them important life lessons about the value of working hard under deadline pressure, improvising, collaborating, making do with limited resources and being resilient.
Soto disclosed that there will be three acts, each one representing a different era of the high school’s Masquers club. The first act will be conducted by renowned music educator and retired North Shore Band Director Bennett Lentczner; the second act by retired North Shore Band Director Jeremy Kempton, and Soto will conduct the third act. Vocal music direction is by retired choral director Stephen Goldstein and current choral director Michael Kerschner, assisted by guest vocal director Laurel Stinson. The director is current theater teacher Michael Kleba.
“This once in a lifetime extravaganza provides an opportunity for kids to interact with former crew members and graduates,” says Soto.
The show is on Saturday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m. in the NSHS theater; a pre-show dinner will take place at 5:45 p.m. in the NSHS cafeteria.
Rick Bloom, president of the nonprofit booster club Arts Angels, who is also House Manager for the gala, explains that the volunteer organization was formed in 1994, a couple of years after the first contingency budget and was created to support all of the arts programs in the district.
The club was started by a small group of parents who share the belief that education in the arts is essential to education. This year’s membership includes more than 120 households. The club advocates for the arts programs that remain a vital part of the North Shore experience in the three elementary schools, middle school and high school. Over the past decade, Arts Angels has raised many thousands of dollars to enhance programs, by funding master classes or purchasing equipment and supplies not covered by the school budgets.
“It’s important for kids to get exposure to the arts,” says Bloom. When they are exposed to various arts programs, he says, “Kids often find a home in a high school where they had felt adrift. We do whatever we can to support the programs.”
Arts Angels is an official booster club of the North Shore School District, and is governed by a volunteer 12-member board of directors who serve one-year terms
“Members of Arts Angels are present at every school concert, selling roses and chocolate stars to honor student performers, and to raise awareness of our advocacy for arts programs. We volunteer our expertise in supporting fine and performing arts programs, most visibly in the theater program where in addition to assisting with technical aspects of the district’s three productions, we provide on-line box office services,” says Julia Brennan, producer and creative director for the gala.
Other Arts Angels volunteers for the gala include Melinda Bloom, technical director, and Gina Martone Brown, who is organizing the pre-show dinner along with Artie Stein, from the class of ‘63.
Other annual activities of the Arts Angels include distributing student-designed luggage tags (popular for music instrument cases,) hosting a make-your-own tutu booth at the Sea Cliff Mini-Marts, organizing a student art show and book fair during the winter holidays at Barnes & Noble Bookstore, hosting a pre-show Spotlight Dinner in the cafeteria before the annual High School musical performance, recognizing district teachers for their support of the arts in an Honor-A-Teacher program and assisting the fine and performing arts department in organizing special student appreciation events.
Randy Blaun, a graduate of NSHS who lives in New York City, is excited to be a part of the gala. She says she was in every production - and often the star of the show- that took place during her four years, and four summers, at North Shore. She is particularly excited to be a part of the show that pays tribute to Mooney, her former drama teacher.
“It is a terrific program,” she says, noting that there was “a prodigious output” under Mooney, including actor Michael McKean who will be making a special video appearance during the gala. Also performing will be Kate Mckinnon, an’02 graduate and cast member on Saturday Night Live.
“This will be a whirling dynamo of theater,” Blaun says.
Purchase tickets, make a donation or buy a program ad at: www.Masquers50thGala.org.