CALDWELL, NJ — The thriving arts program at Trinity Academy in Caldwell, where any student between fifth and eighth grade has the opportunity to learn about and be a part of various different experiences in theatre through the Trinity Academy Drama Club, has been expanding every year since the academy was formed 26 years ago.
The Drama Club touches on all facets of a production, including acting, make-up, costumes, lighting, scenery, props, stage management and more. This school year, nearly half of the student body participated in the Trinity Academy Drama Club’s 24th production, “Shrek the Musical, Jr.”
Under the direction of Kelly King, who was approached in 1993 about helping to enhance the arts program and has been directing the annual production ever since, the Drama Club has become a program that she says “instills a sense of confidence” in the students’ individual abilities.
“The reason I have continued for the last 24 years has to do with my love of the environment at Trinity and the fact that each year I have total support of the growth of the program,” said King, who has a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree from Providence College, a Master of Arts (MA) degree in Theatre from Montclair State University and MA in Education from Seton Hall University.
King said the program is not only about teaching students the different aspects of theater, but is also about teaching them to feel that they are an important part of something bigger. She added that by the end of each production, the performers typically realize that they have the ability to command the audience’s attention, which King says is a skill that is “essential in any leader and one they can use throughout their whole life.”
“My hope is that they learn that no job is small and that the production cannot be its best without each and every one of them,” said King, adding that this is true for both the cast and crew. “To see a student look at the soundboard with a blank stare on the first day they arrive to then watch them run it seamlessly during each performance is wonderful. It is great to see a student discover a talent that they didn't know they had.”
“I am so thankful that we are able to keep the arts alive at Trinity Academy in an age where many schools have had to cut back on arts programs,” said Mary Cassels, Trinity Academy principal. “Mrs. King, the entire administration, and the students themselves are passionate about and dedicated to making creative arts a significant part of our school community.”
Between the cast and crew, approximately 75 percent of the students in fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade at Trinity participate in the annual production.
“Inside of our school, the preparation for show week creates an excitement and a pride among everyone,” said King. “It also gives the younger grades something to look forward to once they are members of the Junior High.”
Megan Della Fave, Trinity Academy alumna and owner of All 4 Dance Performing Arts Studio, was happy to come back to Trinity to help with this year’s show.
“When Mrs. King asked me to come back and choreograph, it was such an honor to be a part of something that I valued so much and had such wonderful memories of,” said Della Fave. “It was so rewarding to see the students' personal growth and development throughout the rehearsal and production process. It's beautiful to see the students learn of their own self-worth and build courage and confidence to be a able to stand in front of a live audience to act, sing and dance.”
In addition to seeing alumni return to help with makeup, hair, headshots and anything else the production might need, King said one of the most rewarding experiences each year is watching the cast and crew in the weeks after the production.
“They walk around with heads held a little higher and smiling a little brighter,” she said. “There is not much more I can say about these students except that I treasure each one of them with all my heart.”
Trinity Academy Drama Club productions, from 1994 until 2017, include: Ducktails & Bobbysocks; Gone With The Breeze; Kilroy Was Here; Give My Regards To Broadway; Pirates of Penzance; Princess and the Pea; Annie, Jr.; Guys & Dolls, Jr.; Wizard of Oz; Charlie & The Chocolate Factory; Into the Woods, Jr.; Godspell, Jr.; Cinderella; King & I; Music Man, Jr.; Schoolhouse Rock, Jr.; Guys & Dolls, Jr.; Fiddler On The Roof, Jr.; Suessical; The Wizard of OZ; Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; Thoroughly Modern Millie, Jr.; Godspell, Jr.; and finally, Shrek the Musical, Jr.
King said many of the students could relate to the characters of “Shrek the Musical, Jr.” because throughout the show, the characters realize that friends come in all shapes and sizes and it's okay to be different. Ultimately, the characters learn to believe in themselves, to open their hearts to others, and to depend on friends made along the way to help them to that.
“Every Trinity production is a testament to this lesson,” said King. “It is never one person that makes these shows come together. All of us who work together have such varied gifts and talents. When we merge these talents together we create something great, of which we all can be proud. I, for one, am immensely proud of this cast and crew and our entire production.”
Under King’s direction, the following volunteers helped make “Shrek the Musical, Jr.” a success this season:
Set Design & Construction: Mrs. Cindy Andretta (Trinity Parent Alum), Mrs. Lenore Schleuning (Trinity Parent Alum)
Costumes Mistress: Mrs. Roxane Brady (Trinity Parent Alum)
With costume assistance from Mrs. Mary Stack, Mrs. Louise O'Brien (Trinity Parent Alum)
Choreographer: Miss Emily Arney
Musical Director: Mrs. Jackie Alworth
Makeup Artists: Daniel Da Silva, Gina Brozon
Hair & Makeup: Catherine O'Brien (Trinity Alum), Lauren Dwyer (Trinity Alum), Faith Waldron (Trinity Alum), Victoria Perillo (Trinity Alum), Bianca DeBenedetto
Student Assistant: Nick Browne