Over 200 alumni step onto the stage TONIGHT to perform in Upper Darby Summer Stage’s 40th Season Gala Celebration. It’s a homecoming for many who haven’t had the opportunity to perform in decades. But the values and skills they learned at Summer Stage – and the friendships they found here – remain a significant part of the people they have become today.
To say this is an extraordinary evening would not do it justice.
The show features video interviews with alumni sharing insights on how Summer Stage changed their life, how individuals developed friendships that have lasted a lifetime, and how a little theater program, started by a bunch of college-aged kids during America’s Bicentennial in 1976, has endured to serve the region with the gift of entertainment delivered with love.
The Gala Celebration showcases performances from each decade, from some of the most popular shows presented at Upper Darby Summer Stage. And my goodness! If any organization can put on a show, it’s Upper Darby Summer Stage! The stage just oozed with talent.
When I looked around the stage at the faces of the various performers from every decade I became overwhelmed with emotion. I could honestly feel the love and pride from each performer. I could see that Summer Stage is the foundation of the people they have become. I could feel their appreciation for our support, thanking us for the opportunity to have Summer Stage a part of their DNA.
While many alumni remain connected to theater and regularly perform, many are coming back to the stage for the first time in years. What did they learn at Summer Stage that they use in their daily life and careers? How does it feel to be back on the stage?
Tom Colgan spent 12 summers at Summer Stage beginning in 1977, first as a participant and later as a staff member. “When I walked through the doors for the first rehearsal last week, a flood of memories came rushing back. I actually walked around back stage to soak it all in again,” said Tom.
Tom hasn’t performed on the stage in a very long time and being back on the stage with friends is “like flexing a muscle that I haven’t used in a while. It’s just nice to be a kid again. It really is. To perform and dance and sing,” said Tom, “and to do it with old friends, well, it’s really special.”
A Director of Human Resources, Tom constantly uses what he learned at Summer Stage on the job. “The things that I learned here, I use every day,” said Tom. “I do training. I get to be in front of groups of people. Having the confidence to do that, I learned here.”
Jeannine Schantz is back on the stage tonight years after her days at Summer Stage during its first decade. She shared her love of the program with her three children who were “Summer Stagers.” Jeannine works in the School of Business at St. Joseph’s University and said, “Working together as a team and being able to think on your feet,” are skills she learned at Summer Stage. “I learned how to adapt quickly to changes and how to polish things up until they’re ready to present. I learned that if you set the bar high – with anything in your daily life – you find the way to make it work.”
Joyce Severin also participated in Summer Stage during its first decade and has kids who participated in the program. She agrees with Jeannine when it comes to the collaborative skills she learned here. “I learned the value
of working as a team. That everybody is just as important as everybody else. I really learned how to have respect for one another and I know my kids learned that as well.”
Bob Falkenstein graduated from Upper Darby High School in 1978 and is now an English Teacher at the Palmerton Area High School in Carbon County. During the very early years of Summer Stage, Bob ran the publicity efforts writing press releases, taking pictures, and interviewing participants. Later he worked in the box office and directed shows.
“Even though I wasn’t the most talented person, I was able to use my creativity as a writer and as a manager at Summer Stage, and they’re skills I was able to take with me into my career in education,” said Bob.
Bob hasn’t had the opportunity to perform in many years and so being back on the stage, “It means the world to me. My wife and kids are coming down and will be in the audience, along with my parents.”
Many of the alumni who take to the stage tonight will agree with Bob. The most valuable gifts he received from Summer Stage are the lifelong friendships. “Most of the friends that I have today are friends that I met almost 40 years ago at Summer Stage,” said Bob.
To be back on the stage “is a blessing,” said Bob. “It’s as if I stumbled upon a time machine. It’s like the Bruce Springsteen song, ‘Glory Days.’ I wish that everybody could have the opportunity to do whatever it is they used to do. Just to go back for a couple of nights,” added Bob.
With live musical accompaniment, great show tunes from Anything Goes, The King & I, West Side Story, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Hairspray, Titanic, and many more, reminiscent monologues, video feeds, a group sing-in of “Fill the World with Love,” and a tribute to the entire Dietzler family for the thousands of hours of dedication to Summer Stage – this show has it all and is NOT to be missed!
– Lauren Stevenson Yacina
IF YOU GO:
Final Night of the 40th Season Celebration Gala
TONIGHT, July 11 at 6pm
Tickets still available at www.udpac.org