With an infectiously unforgettable score from four-time Grammy winner, three-time Oscar winner and musical theatre giant, Stephen Schwartz, Pippin is the story one young man’s journey to be extraordinary. This updated circus-inspired version of Pippin continue to captivate and appeal to audiences across the age spectrum. Photos by Andrew Henry
NBC10 and the Educational Theatre Foundation held an advanced screening of the pilot for the new television drama “Rise” at the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center on March 11.
Tickets for the event, hosted by NBC10 meteorologist Brittney Shipp, were free to reserve on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“‘Rise’ reflects a modern American high school with students of diverse backgrounds and life experiences,” said Shipp before the screening. “The story is as much about a small town in Pennsylvania as it is about musical theater. ‘Rise’ is about family, friendship, relationships, and growing up.”
The show is based on a true story, featuring the lives of teachers and students at Harry S. Truman High School in Levittown, Pa. Current students and staff were invited to the event.
“This show is about finding inspiration in unexpected places when dedicated teacher Lou Mazzuchelli sheds his self-doubt and takes over the school’s lackluster theater department,” Shipp said before the screening began. “He galvanizes not only the faculty but also students in the entire working-class town.”
Georjenna Gatto, an alumnus of Truman, explained that “Rise” is based on “Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater,” a book by Michael Sokolove, New York Times Magazine writer and Truman alumnus.
Published in 2013, “Drama High” tells the true story of the students and teachers at Truman.
At the time, the students were rehearsing for the first high school-edited production of “Spring Awakening,” under the direction of Lou Volpe. In Gatto’s words, Volpe revolutionized the theater program at Truman.
“I was playing Wendla,” said Gatto, referring to her lead role in the production. “Mike Sokolove came back and followed us around for months, interviewing us and watching us rehearse.”
Students and staff from Mastery Charter School at Shoemaker Campus in Philadelphia, Pa. were also invited to the screening.
“These two schools were one of 50 schools chosen by NBC and the Educational Theatre Foundation that’s part of R.I.S.E. America,” Shipp said. “They are going to receive a $10 thousand grant that will enable them to enhance their theater program.”
According to the Educational Theatre Foundation website, 50 high schools were chosen out of 1,000 applicants to receive NBC’s “R.I.S.E. America” grants.
The acronym “R.I.S.E.” stands for “Recognizing and Inspiring Student Expression.” The grants enable theater programs to cover the cost of critical needs, such as production expenses and technical equipment.
Jared Moskowitz and Natalie Busillo, teachers at Shoemaker, said they applied for the grant and submitted a video.
“I took [the video] on my iPhone,” Busillo said. “It was our school choir singing ‘21 Guns’ [by Green Day], and I interviewed some students. I literally looked up YouTube videos on how to edit and taught myself how to use iMovie.”
Moskowitz said they had tried performing productions at Shoemaker in the past, but due to unfortunate circumstances, were unable to.
“We were going to do a production of ‘A Raisin In The Sun,’ and we completely sold out,” he said. “Two weeks before opening night, a pipe burst in the school, and the entire theater flooded. All of the equipment was ruined and the stage buckled in. The floodgates literally opened.”
Busillo said that Shoemaker has one of the stronger theater programs out of all campuses due to their more developed space for musicals. The grant money will go toward updating theater equipment.
After the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center screening, Shipp held a Q-and-A with executive producer Jason Katims and “Rise” star Damon J. Gillespie.
Shipp asked Katims how he came up with the idea for the show and what compelled him to write it.
“I became aware of [“Drama High”] from Jeffrey Seller and Bob Greenblatt,” said Katims, referring to the NBC producers. “Even before opening the book, I knew it was a story I wanted to tell. Lou dedicated his life to being an educator, inspiring so many students’ lives and changing the community.”
Katims added that trying to capture the spirit and essence that many high school theater programs have is exciting for him.
He also paid tribute to teachers at Truman, including Volpe.
“I’ve spent the last year in Lou’s world,” Katims said. “Writing about this, I’m inspired by all of the teachers who do the same thing.”
Katims said that when Volpe read the script, he focused on the writing rather than the material of the show.
“It was incredible,” Katims said. “He saw me as a writer, and I realized that I was experiencing what it was like to be one of Lou’s students in that theater program for 44 years.”
NBC aired the pilot on March 13 and new episodes will continue to air every Tuesday.
Contact Dean Galiffa at firstname.lastname@example.org
Story and photos by Emily Steinhardt
Thousands of people wandered around Germantown Avenue on Oct. 21 as Harry Potter Festival took over Chestnut Hill. Attendees enjoyed everything from Butter Beer to brooms as they explored the 12 block festival that doubled in size since last year.
Chestnut Hill College was host to the Annual Philadelphia Brotherly Love Cup, a Quidditch tournament that local colleges could compete in.
The day was filled with costumes and characters from the books as people of all ages lived in the world of Harry Potter.
By Theresa Rothmiller
He was about to put out just an album titled “Newark Illustrated”; instead, he made it into a movement.
“I had shirts with “Lil’ seven, album coming soon”,” James Stokes said. “Everywhere we went people would say, ‘There go them Newark Illustrated guys.’ In that moment, the lightbulb went off. I said if I was to put this album out, nobody would ever wear another [Newark Illustrated] T-shirt. I didn’t put the album out as that, and just ran with the movement.”
Oct. 12, James “Big Seven” Stokes, founder of Newark Illustrated Marketing and Promotions, sat down to discuss his 20 years of experience in the music business and his support for unsigned artists. In the beginning of his career, Stokes recalls becoming a New Jersey household name at a very young age.
“I was 13 and everybody that I was breakdancing with were 21 years old and up,” Stokes said. “It was unheard of for a 11, 12, 13-year-old to really be into hip-hop. My roots go very deep.”
Stokes reminisced on his travels as a kid, his quick gain of popularity, and how his friend wrote his lyrics until he was a freshman in high school.
According to Stokes, he needed a rap for school and his rap partner, Hassan 7-11, was sick. He said he put his mind to it and wrote a rap inspired by a teacher who doubted he would pass his class.
Stokes recalls that as the moment when his confidence as a writer began to grow.
By 12th grade, Stokes met his rap partner “Hahz the Rippa.” The two formed a hip-hop group called “Hard We’re,” and caught the eye of Jay-Z during the early 90’s.
After being offered a chance to be the first group on Roc-A-Fella Records, the group separated six months later, and Stokes states that his take-away message from that situation was that he needed to start his own label.
When he obtained his own label, “Nonstop Entertainment,” he realized his own daughter could be a star.
“One Christmas, I told my 10-year-old daughter [now Miss Nana] that I wanted her to say something on my voicemail,” Stokes said. He put together a brief rap for her to mimic. According to Stokes, people thought Miss Nana was a young boy, saying,“That little boy sounds dope.” Approximately three months later, people began telling Stokes that his daughter was the better rapper.
“Once I noticed how everybody took to her, I fell back to be a manager,” Stokes said. “There was no way I would have gotten behind Nana if there wasn’t anything there. This was a business decision. The fact that it was my daughter was a bonus.”
Through his recognition, Stokes connected with former radio personality and current television show host Wendy Williams. At that time, Williams was searching for artists to record promos. After Stokes submitted a few of his own promos, someone suggested Nana try one.
“I put together a rap [for Nana] to a Lil’ Bow Wow song and gave it to Wendy,” Stokes said.
According to Stokes, not only was Williams calling to make a deal to manage Nana, Bow Wow had an interest in her as well. After Bow Wow announced on BET’s 106 & Park that Nana would be joining him, Stokes accompanied his daughter on a 10 city tour, then a 20 city tour two years later.
From 2009 to 2013, Stokes and his Nana went on hiatus. Stokes said he realized while building Nana’s career, his dreams were put aside.
“I lost my identity,” Stokes explained. “My name was Nana’s father. I wasn’t even Little Seven anymore.”
Stokes described the experience both as a gift and a curse. Instead of sending hundreds of messages in first person (as Nana), he should have taken some credit, Stokes claimed.
Today, Stokes hosts his own live radio show “Time 2 Grind,” co-signed by hip-hop legend DJ Kay Slay. Airing every Monday and Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST., and found on Instagram, YouTube, Periscope, Facebook and more.
“It started as something to do while Nana was in college,” Stokes admitted. “Any arena I’m in, I try to dominate it hard. I named it ‘Time 2 Grind’ because of that.”
Stokes explained that it started from a show on another network. After working for different stations over the years, he realized his name and brand were more recognizable than theirs. He said he’d rather have his own show.
Similar to a blessing in disguise, he experienced with his album, approximately one year ago, fans suggested a great idea for Stokes show.
In the beginning, he hosted one show every sunday, “Big Seven and Friends.” Both unsigned and established artists were brought on the show. Meanwhile, 15 minutes were open for artists to call in to rap or sing live.
“Sundays became a bit stagnated, so I said I’m going to start a show called, ‘Hip hop 101,’” Stokes said. It consisted of unsigned artists having their album or mixtape reviewed live.
“For about a week, I had nothing to review, but had thousands of songs sent for the mixtape,” Stokes said. “It kind of came organically.”
He explained how listeners gave their feedback, and then someone asked to make a donation to have their song reviewed.
“The lightbulb went off and I said, ‘Okay, donate $20,’” Stokes recalled. “The artist paid. I played the record and gave my honest feedback.”
One artist after another began to donate, so he changed the entire show to that format. According to Stokes, the show has been very successful. He has thousands of listeners and viewers from Philadelphia, New York and Chicago, to Miami, Los Angeles, Minnesota, and more.
Next, Stokes is relaunching Time 2 Grind radio, adding a Gospel and women inspired segments. He said he wants people to understand that Time 2 Grind is a tv/radio show, and isn’t always hip hop related. As for NI-Marketing, they’re currently working on Miss Nana’s new project.
“My pride and joy is helping unsigned artists get from A to [not even Z] to N, and I’m satisfied,” Stokes said.
Contact Theresa Rothmiller at email@example.com. edu
Story and photos by Victoria Lavelle
It was curtains up for the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus (PGMC) in the Large Auditorium at DCCC’s Marple campus, a Campus Life event to promote diversity at the college on Nov. 2.
The chorus performs music together and is key in the creation of new choral compositions. Under the artistic direction of Joseph J. Buches, along with collaborative piano accompanist, Tim Brown, the PGMC performed a variety of Broadway melodies that included selections from Kinky Boots and a vast arrangement of adult contemporary classics.
PGMC’s Brotherly Love ensemble sang “Bridge Over Trouble Water” with Broadway legend Jennifer Holiday at the 2017 Out& Equal Workplace Summit Galain Philadelphia. As an introduction into the chorus’s rendition of “True Colors,” the chorus shared anecdotes from their recent performance with recording artist Cyndi Lauper.
The chorus is a cultural fixture in Philadelphia and is one of the oldest gay men’s choruses in the nation. It was founded in 1981 when former director Gerald Davis toured the city’s LGBT district with just three other members to sing Christmas carols during the holiday season throughout the mid 80’s.
The chorus became the first LGBT musical group to perform at City Hall for the Philadelphia City Council in 97’, and the growth of PGMC took off in the new millennium.
The chorus’ mission as stated on their official website reads: “The Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus entertains audiences, supports communities, and fosters acceptance through exceptional musical performance. Our vision is a community that celebrates differences and a chorus that inspires change.”