Pottstown Grad Too Good For Cap And Gown? Part II

In a follow-up to Evan Brandt’s excellent article about Pottstown High School senior Shawn Szydlowski, this Roy’s Rants exclusive uncovers another injustice against a Pottstown High School senior without the happy ending.

Like fellow classmate Shawn Szydlowski, Paige Patton is a graduating senior at Pottstown High School.  Paige Patton was a camp counselor at the Muscular Dystrophy Association Variety Club camp during June of 2009.  However, unlike Shawn Szydlowski, Paige Patton tried working with the camp rather than the school district to resolve the scheduling conflicts between school and camp activities.

PHS Graduation and Baccalaureate rehearsals were June 10th and June 11th with graduation scheduled for June 14th.  Camp orientation was scheduled for June 10th and 11th with camp running the week of June 12th through June 19th at the Variety Club’s Worcester Township site.

Graduating seniors were told if they missed practice, they could not walk for graduation.  Paige took this warning seriously so she and her family tried contacting the MDA Camp Coordinator to work something out but their calls were not returned.  Paige subsequently received a letter from the MDA stating her services as a camp counselor were not needed this year.

Paige formed a special bond with her camper last year.  The camper and her family specifically requested Paige again for this year!  Paige will also miss the camp graduation of another friend she made last summer because she is not allowed to attend camp.

Paige’s involvement with the MDA did not end with camp.  Paige and her family made four trips from Pottstown to the MDA Broomall Office and helped stuff 2500 fundraising envelopes.  Paige also held her own fundraiser at PHS.  She received permission to miss class so she could sit in the hall and sell shamrocks for $1.00.  Two gift baskets were made up and raffled off based on the shamrock sales.  For each shamrock purchase, the buyer received a ticket(s) that were entered into a raffle.  The winners received the gift baskets.  Paige and her family then made another trip to the MDA’s Broomall office to drop off the $125.00 she raised.

Paige will be attending Montgomery County Community College, West Campus this fall where she will begin studying to become a special education teacher.  The experience working with Muscular Dystrophy campers is related to what she will be studying in college.  It is a shame that someone who worked so hard to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association had to make a choice between graduation and volunteering as a camp counselor.  Furthermore, to be dismissed without even a return phone call and a curt letter is shameful.

I would suspect people are not lining up to be camp counselors for disabled children.  The school district and the camp need to be more flexible when working with students who are trying to give of themselves to help others.  No student should have to make the choice these two young women were faced with.  Sadly, Paige’s story does not have the happy ending that Shawn’s does.

Is this the kind of lesson we want to teach our young people?  If we try and “pay it forward” we get slapped in the face.  At the very least this young lady deserves an apology for the treatment she received from the camp and from the school district for making her follow their stringent rules.  The inflexibility of these two entities cost Paige the opportunity to be a camp counselor and denied that disabled camper the chance to spend another week with someone she and her family specifically requested.

Shame, shame, shame.

A Review Of Ragtime

Last evening I again had the pleasure of attending another Main Stage Village Production.  My two friends and I met in the lobby, purchased our tickets and eagerly waited for what was to come.  When the doors opened we made our way into the theatre to find seats.  There was a very good crowd for a Thursday night.  The theatre was ¾ full. 

Village Productions uses general seating, which I prefer.  The seats are arranged in a “u” shape for this production.  We decided to try sitting in a section other than the large straight-on view of the stage area.  We sat on the left side in a section that narrowly stretches along the side wall.  This was good because we were closer to the actors.  Actors came and went directly behind us throughout the performance.  I enjoyed this vantage point because of the opportunity to hear each voice (other than soloists) singing. 

Ragtime certainly speaks to today’s audience.  Many of the struggles this musical addresses are still around.  We still have racism, classism, sexism and immigration issues.  While people may not be as overt in this day and age, these problems still plague our society.  I will caution that racial epithets and cursing are part of the script.  There were some gasps by the audience when they were used.  Let me just say it brings home the point! 

What always amazes me is the lack of lavish sets and props.  The acting draws you in and speaks for itself.  There is just enough to get the job done.  Another wonderful thing about Village Productions is the use of live music.  The orchestra is always first-rate!  No canned music here!  The program lists 14 musicians and a conductor.  Impressive!  Hat tip to Music Director Deborah Stimson-Snow for a job well done! 

The audience is warned that there are simulated gun shots and strobe lights used during the production.  It does help knowing this ahead of time so you aren’t startled!

Ragtime takes place 100 years ago.  Our country was going through a period of enormous change.  New inventions, familial changes, civil rights and work-place struggles all propelled society forward and changed life as we knew it.  America was optimistic about its future and anything seemed possible. 

Ragtime is the best show I have seen thus far at the TriPAC.  The level of performance was inspiring.  The singing was phenomenal.  In my opinion, this was the strongest cast vocally of any musical I have attended there.  The story is compelling and the characters are well developed.  The audience becomes emotionally involved.  Ragtime Director, Neal Newman gets a RoysRants gold star for an outstanding job!

Normally I list stand-out performances in my review.  All the actors are deserving of high praise for their performances.  Everyone was playing their “A” game last night.  There are a few people I would like to mention: 

Julie Eurillo delivered a brilliant performance as Mother.  A gorgeous voice with tremendous control!

Bill Kiesling’s portrayal of Father was on the money.  Bill captured the essence of the “privileged white man” of this era and also delivered a strong vocal performance.

Gary Giles, who we came to greatly admire in The Wiz, put every fiber of his being into portraying Coalhouse Walker.  Gary has a soulful voice and is an amazing actor.

Chartel Findlater was riveting as Sarah.  Chartel’s depth of emotion, coupled with her stunning voice, was perfect for this pivotal role. 

Gregory Kasander delivered an emotionally charged performance as Younger Brother.  We knew Gregory could act after seeing him in Noises Off.  In this performance we were equally impressed with his singing ability. 

Carly Crowley was awesome in her role as Evelyn Nesbit.  Evelyn was the Paris Hilton of her day…famous for being famous.  Carly delivered some much-needed comic relief, perfectly captured her character’s eccentricities and gave a strong vocal performance. 

Ben Fried as Tateh was another superb casting decision.  Ben’s performance was believable and we felt his pain.  Ben was also vocally outstanding. 

The funniest thing I have seen in a long time was Act II, Scene 2: The Polo Grounds.  Father takes Little Boy to his first baseball game.  He tells Little Boy what a noble game baseball is.  When they arrive, it is anything but.  I laughed until I cried during What a Game!

I would urge you to take advantage of this opportunity while it is still playing.  Executive Director, Marta Kiesling and her staff are to be commended for providing such high-caliber entertainment to the Greater Pottstown area.  We give this production a RoysRants two thumbs up! 

Ragtime is playing until June 20th at the Tri-County Performing Arts Center, 245 E. High Street in downtown Pottstown.

For dates, times, ticket information and purchases:

Voice: 610-970-1199

Internet: http://www.tripac.org