Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
Tommy TP Players
Having recently heard much carping about the funding of the arts, I decided to go see a high school stage production.
The production was The Who’s Tommy at Torrey Pines High School.
My idea backfired somewhat. “We are funded by ticket sales and don’t receive any money from the district for our productions,” explained theater director Marinee Payne.
Ms. Payne has been at Torrey Pines for twenty years. “In those twenty years, we’ve done three or four shows per year and haven’t repeated a show once. There’s just so much material out there.”
Therefore, this was the first time The Torrey Pines Players had produced Tommy and the entire show was put together by students.
A student directed (Ryan Barrales), a student directed the music (Robert Johnson). The scenic designer, lighting designer, make up/hair, sound, graphics, and stage management were all students.
As Ms. Payne proclaimed to the audience before we entered the theater, “We don’t hire professionals, we train them!”
So how was the show? It was about what I expected which is to say inconsistent. If my memory serves me correctly, that’s the case for most student productions I’ve seen.
Tommy is a tough show. There is no dialogue to move the story along; it’s a true rock opera.
Some of the leads turned in solid performances, some didn’t. Most of the ensemble knew all of their choreography, some didn’t. I must admit I enjoyed catching a few of the ensemble members looking at their neighbors for the next step. That’s usually how I handled choreography “back in the day”.
The band was great even though I was told the drummer stepped in that day to fill in for a sick student.
What does this say about funding for the arts? Not much I’m afraid. However, there is still theater happening in schools.
I think that as long as teachers like Ms. Payne are around, funding or not, theater will survive and continue to enrich the lives of students.