‘BSS production of High School Musical’ wins Awesome Kingston November grant

More than 70 students are putting together the first play/musical at BSS since the pandemic. Submitted photo.

Every month, Awesome Kingston awards a $1,000 grant to a local project that the trustees think will keep Kingston awesome. Last week, the November grant was awarded to Bayridge Secondary School’s production of High School Musical.

Plays and musicals can be the highlight of some students’ (and teachers’) years, and Bayridge Secondary School (BSS) is returning to creating this art form after the pandemic stopped many “regular” school experiences.

This year, more than 70 BSS students and a selection of staff are working hard to bring High School Musical to life. Sophia Fabiilli, the Student Success Teacher at BSS, applied and pitched for the Awesome Kingston grant after suggestions from the school’s Parent Council.

New to putting on high school plays and musicals, Fabiilli said that High School Musical was picked for the strong name recognition and the fact that it’s set in a high school, which makes costuming and set design a bit more manageable. 

“Before I began teaching, I worked in theatre for 10 years as an actor, playwright, producer, and director. I’ve worked on a lot of shows, but this is my first musical at the high school level since I was in high school myself!” she told Kingstonist in an interview.

When asked about her background, Fabiilli said she grew up in Kingston and graduated from Regi. After her university undergrad, she was an actor in Toronto which led her to producing, playwriting, screenwriting, and eventually the position of Associate Artistic Director of the Thousand Islands Playhouse for three seasons.

The pandemic was tough on the acting industry, so she decided to go to teachers college, and now she supports students as a teacher and is part of the large team putting on this musical.

When asked how plays and musicals support a student’s education, Fabiilli said she found her love of acting and the arts in high school, and hopes it helps kids find their true selves.

“I think plays and musicals offer students a lot; from singing and learning music, to dancing, to the self-expression that comes from acting. In the post-pandemic education world, we’re talking a lot about how we help kids build resilience. Try singing and dancing for two hours after school. If that doesn’t build resilience, I don’t know what will,” she stated.

“We’ve definitely seen the kids grow both in their self-confidence, their vocal volume, and bonding as a team. It’s really scary to sing in front of other people. Many of the kids have not done a musical before, so it’s been very cool to watch them come out of their shells. I commend every single cast member for how hard they’re working. It’s no small feat.”

The Awesome Kingston grant money will be put toward tech rental costs. According to Fabiilli, because the school hasn’t done a show in so long, the equipment, which was already dated, hasn’t been taken care of, and many items are no longer functioning.

“We have to rent a soundboard, speakers, and microphones, and we are working with an amazing technician to help educate us on how to work the equipment. We’ve been skimping on everything, but these are costs we can’t get around,” she shared.

When asked how they would have overcome this obstacle without this microgrant, Fabiilli said she would have had many more sleepless nights, and extra time would also have to be devoted to fundraising.

“We are rehearsing four nights a week plus Sundays — many high schools keep this schedule — so time is at a premium at the moment. I’m so thankful that Awesome Kingston is supporting our show and my REM cycles,” she laughed.

Planning for high school plays and musicals can begin as early as the school year before. At BSS, the teachers started planning in August and auditions took place the second week of school.

“We have 30 kids in the cast, with a pit band of six. We have seven students on tech crew, more than 12 students who have helped paint the set so far, five on costumes and make-up, nine on front of house, and two backstage,” Fabiilli explained. “For a school of 550, I’m pretty proud that 70+ students will have contributed to this project. Plus, an amazing team of BSS staff members. We have a great team.”

High School Musical will run at the high school from December 5 to 9, 2023. The first two days are shows for local elementary schools, and the show opens to the public on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023.

Tickets for the show are on sale now. Email Hollie Stewart at [email protected] to reserve.

Awesome Kingston takes December off. Our coverage of the pitch party winners will continue in the new year. Learn more about Awesome Kingston here.

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