The new Culver City Middle School Musical Theater Production will mark its debut with “Darn Yankees” performances to be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 22 and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 23 at Robert Frost Auditorium.
“Darn Yankees” was chosen to be Panther Partner’s premiere production because the story highlights the journey of the “everyman” and provides an ideal ensemble piece that focuses on building camaraderie and trust. The musical theater program is providing a vehicle to help the students work through the demanding transitional period of middle school by helping them develop social skills, team building, problem solving, confidence and community.
Starting a theater program from the ground up at CCMS has been a challenge at best, but made possible by engaging a true professional team to bring it to fruition. The director, musical director and co-producer, Diane Feldman, is no novice to musical theater as she has been creating musical theater productions for students for 25 years in and around Culver City. This well-seasoned professional has been the driving force behind creating a terrific training program, as well as bringing the organizational muscle and fortitude necessary to develop such an ambitious project. Diane Feldman is the Founder/Artistic and Musical Director of CCLO™ (Children’s Civic Light Opera), the longest established, most-comprehensive youth theatre company in Los Angeles.
She volunteers many hours beyond her paid time to make it happen for Culver City Middle School because as she says, “Middle school is one of the most challenging, yet most empowering times in a young person’s growth and development. As mentors, we need to help young people self-celebrate, and musical theater, when managed professionally, offers unique learning opportunities in an activated, inspiring, educational, collaborative, non-competitive, engaging and dynamic environment.”
The other key person in the production has been Diana Kunce, parent volunteer, co-producer and set designer. She has worked alongside Feldman for years at Westwood Charter School’s musical theater program, and when her daughter transferred to CCMS, she brought along with her her ideas and vision. A professional production designer by trade, she volunteers almost full time to steer this production. Diana feels that this program has been an essential part of community building and growth for what she says is an amazingly talented, dynamic and hard working team of students.
Another very important part of the teaching team is the choreographer Courtney Bradshaw who has worked professionally as a Choreographer for over 12 years and created the Musical Theater Production Workshop at Farragut Elementary School in Culver City. She leads the ensemble in the large dance and singing production numbers as well as working with groups of cast members on their dance sequences.
“When Diana Kunce approached me to start this at CCMS I thought, ‘How are we going to raise the money?’ And, ‘Wow that’s a lot of work,’” said Bonnie Wacker, Panther Partners of CCMS President. “But, through her sheer determination and the great support from Principal Jon Pearson and Assistant Principal Rick Barclay, it’s all coming together. The process of creating a theater production is much more involved and demanding than I ever thought. I’m learning right along with the students, and I’m thrilled to be part of the non-profit organization behind its beginning. We encourage and accept any donations to the program.”
Wacker said the group was able to raise about $15,000 through parent donations, the Jogathon fundraiser and a grant from Culver City Education Foundation for $1,500. However, this was just a portion of the $20,000 the group really needed to put on the production. Wacker said the production was saved by a very generous donation of lighting, sound, costumes and props from Janice Pober and Scott Valentine at Sony Pictures Entertainment.
In addition to the public shows on May 22 and 23, a special performance will be done for CCMS students as an assembly on Monday, May 24.
Tickets are available for purchase on-line via PayPal at web.me.com/senis/DarnYankees/ticketsales.html. For ticket information, please call 310-391-1827 or via email [email protected].
For more information about the production, please contact Diana Kunce at [email protected] or via telephone at 310-849-3909.