District still trying to find directors for spring musical


Louis Raggiunti -- TribLive.com

Shaler Area performed the musical “Beauty and the Beast” in 2019.

For the past 40 years, from “South Pacific” to “Shrek”, Shaler Area High School has been putting on outstanding musicals. The constant hard work and dedication from everyone involved, including the cast, crew, and pit is what has made these performances so outstanding and memorable.

But what about the directors? They are the backbone of these musicals, putting in hours upon hours of hard work to make sure that the show is successful. So what happens when there are none?

Currently the school is still looking to fill the positions of Director, Assistant Director, Technical Director, Pit Director and Choreographer.

The directors stepped down after the musical last year, which was not an easy decision, especially for the former director, Mrs. Kristen Tepshich.

“I struggle with this because I want to have it all. I have been very lucky to have a family and have a successful career and be involved in things that feed parts of my soul as an artist. Musical is one of those feeders for me. There’s nothing like it,” she said. “As much as it allows me to feed a part of my own personal artistic ability, I need to give a little bit of time to my family while my kids are young.”

It keeps me awake at night. We don’t have a directing staff.

— Mrs. Mindy Thiel

The premiere of the fall play is just around the corner which means that musical auditions are slowly creeping closer as well. Activities Director Mrs. Mindy Thiel is still searching for people to fill those five positions.

“It keeps me awake at night,” Thiel said. “We don’t have a directing staff.”

Last spring, the performing arts department put on the show “Shrek”. Opening weekend was a success, with sell-outs or near sell-out shows. Unfortunately, the second weekend was cancelled due to COVID-19, which not only was disappointing then, but is also affecting this year’s production because of the lost revenue from that second weekend.

“The first weekend covers any costs and bills, the second weekend covers costs for the upcoming year,” Thiel said. “We now have a limited budget as to what we can put on for (this) year.”

The main focus right now though isn’t the budget, it is finding people to fill the open positions. There are multiple obstacles which make the hiring process more challenging than would normally be the case.

“Coming in as a new musical director is going to be a really difficult position to be in. So take that on top of you coming in as musical director and I tell you, ‘We don’t have a budget so pick a cheap show because it’s all we can afford’ on top of the pandemic and the unknown of what can and can’t happen on stage,” Thiel said.

Another issue in recruiting a director is the pay involved. The stipend is one of the lowest stipends for musical directors in our area.

With social distancing protocols and mask requirements, there are many unknowns as to how the musical would function this year. How could actors sing and interact on stage safely? The same goes for the pit orchestra. The students are just too close together to ensure the safety of everyone. Mrs. Tepshich believes that there are ways to overcome these challenges.

“Logistically, it’s going to require a lot of creative thinking, maybe it might not be in the traditional format,” she said.

No matter how challenging the logistics are, the most pressing issue right now is to find the people who will make those decisions.