Portland High School Celebrates Fine Arts Month
Not only is March national “Theater in our Schools” month and “Music in our Schools” month, but locally at Portland Public Schools it is “Fine Arts Month”. The Portland High School Fine Arts Department celebrates all arts by bringing musical theater to the stage in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” on March 17th, 18th, and 19th.
The show, which contains adult language, is a musical comedy featuring 4-6 grade characters, and reminds us of the adult expectations we often place on children. As Mike Sulecki, PHS band director and Instrumental Director for the production, says, “I love the messages and morals you can find in this show. Everyone loves a good coming-of-age story, but this is so much more than that. It explores the idea of increased competitive demands placed upon children, regardless of the trauma/obstacles they experience in their home life.”
The production is a department-wide collaboration of all five fine arts teachers at the high school with choreography created by Hector Hernandez, the instructor of Portland High’s burgeoning dance program. "The dances in this show include a mixture of jazz, ballet, and ballroom dance, purposefully blended in order to accentuate the outrageous and whimsical nature of the piece,” says Hernandez. ”This is also in line with the choreography that I teach in my dance class, which focuses on both ballroom and latin styles that emphasize the importance of flexibility, core strength, and proper frame/posture."
“Arts education helps support the whole person,” says Visual Arts instructor Erica Gorzen, who takes on cast/crew t-shirt designs and assists with set design. “Within the arts, individuals will find new possibilities, create, overcome struggles, grow, and find inspiration that they can implement in their everyday lives.” Senior Teaghan Lathers, Stage Manager for the production, echoes this sentiment, “People learn from making mistakes, and that is something that should happen while they have someone to guide them rather than when they are on their own. Mrs. Polasek has always made a point to let people learn new skills through theater, and [as a stage manager] I am trying to do the same.”
It’s not just about educating the students. “Far too many teaching artists get buried in the art of instruction, and lose touch with actually creating their art”, says Theatrical Director and teacher Chandra Polasek. “ Working with this team allows us to have a collaborative peer group, all of us creative and all of us teaching professionals. It is easy to view us each as individual departments- Music, Voice, Dance,Theater, Visual Arts- but in doing that we become disconnected. We become islands. This production bridges the gaps between our departments and helps us connect with and learn from not only each other, but also our shared passion for our art forms, reminding us how intertwined they are. I am so excited to share with the community the product of this team’s incredible collaboration, and am exceedingly grateful we have the administrators who support and foster the arts both at our school and in our community.”
Tickets for the Spelling Bee can be purchased at the door on performance nights or online here.
Additionally, as part of their month long celebration, the PHS Band will take part in District Festival on March 11th, the choirs on March 17th, and the entire community is welcome to take in a day long Festival of the Arts (formerly Day of Music) on March 26th, which will feature performances and art work spanning all grade levels in addition to involving community artists.