Every theater tells a story and New Milford High School's Jim Africano Theater is filled with them.
"See that hole in the ceiling up there?" this year's director of the Spring Musical, Jonathan Silver, asked. Directly above the space between the edge of the stage and the first row of seats there is a perfectly symmetrical gaping hole.
"Rob (McClure) and I were up there trying to fix the lights when he fell through the ceiling," Silver recalled. "Luckily he caught himself on two bars so he didn't come crashing to the floor."
Talk about a "break-a-leg" theater moment.
At the time, Silver (NMHS 2005) was a student cast in the spring musical that Rob McClure (NMHS 2000) was directing. It was McClure's energy and love for theater that inspired Silver to follow in his footsteps when he graduated from NHMS. Upon graduating from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, McClure encouraged him to "do the New York thing," but to keep Philadelphia's vibrant theater scene in mind, as well.
"I did the New York thing and discovered that it's really hard to audition when you have to hold down three jobs just to be able to afford to live there," Silver said.
Taking McClure's advice, he journeyed to Philadelphia where he was able to live by holding down only one job, and audition for anything that came up. Silver went on to perform in productions at Philadelphia's Arden Theater, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Bristol Riverside Theater and the Cincinnati Fringe Festival.
Like McClure, and Alexander Diaz (NMHS Class of 2003 who is now the Director of Arts Education and Outreach at the Bergen Performing Arts Center and a producer of this year's musical) Silver has come home to his roots to direct and, he says, "to give back to the community that has given so much to me."
Prior to offering rehearsals, Silver hosted a workshop at NMHS called "Acting for the Singer" not only as a way to get to know the talents of the students before he held rehearsals, but as a way to gauge which show would best showcase the talents of the cast.
Originally, Silver intended to choose a Rogers and Hammerstein musical, but after the workshop he realized that something more modern would best suit their talents. Given the state of the economy, Silver wanted to choose something lighthearted; something that in this climate would be "joyous."
"I immediately thought "9 to 5: The Musical" would be perfect," Silver said. "And soon after I thought that, a friend told me the rights had just become available."
At the time that they received the rights to perform the show, New Milford High School was one of the first five non-equity productions of "9 to 5: The Musical" and the only one in New Jersey.
At the first audition, Silver was excited to announce that they would be performing the music of Dolly Parton.
The students looked at him with blank stares until someone said, "Oh, Dolly Parton. Isn't she Miley Cyrus' godmother on Hannah Montana?"
Choreographer, and friend of Silver, Liberty Cogen, is commuting from Manhattan to help with the rehearsals, and the venerable Jim Africano, for whom the school theater is named, is designing and constructing the set.
As Silver surveyed the empty theater he smiled and said, "I came back to be a part of this community. I dropped everything to come back because I have a genuine love for this town, this school." He took a moment before adding, "This theater feels like home to me."
This year's musical will be presented on March 22, 23 and 24 and it is Silver's goal "to fill every seat in the house for every performance."
Patch will continue to follow the production of "9 to 5: The Musical" from the first rehearsal to opening night.