"Our goal right now is to do whatever we can so the kids have this experience. One of the things I told them is we are not guaranteed tomorrow, so savor every moment and every experience," said Kennedy.
For any theatrical production to occur, the rights, or royalty fees, for each show must be paid, and costumes and all materials for set design must be purchased. At Mars, these purchases are made by the directors using money earned from the previous year’s ticket sales. With no shows last school year, this is a unique challenge for the musical directors who have already spent their allotted budget preparing for Mamma Mia.
Normally the musical would have three shows with 1,000 tickets sold for each, but this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the musical will host 6 shows with about 120 tickets sold for each. This means that even if all tickets are sold, the program will receive less than one-third of their typical proceeds. In other words, this may be the last year that the high school musical exists in the Mars Area School District.
Realizing this fact and knowing that without district support the musical is doomed to fall short of the funding needed to continue, I asked what drives these teachers. Why keep working with the students when you know the simple facts of math are aligned against this program?
Answering this question brought both teachers to tears in separate interviews, driving home the emotional investment they have made in our students. While the musical directors are doing their best to keep their focus on the here and now, they also expressed concern for the future of the program and how that will affect the students in the district.
“We do it for the kids – they are the most wonderful group of kids, and to see the impact the rehearsals and then the performance has on each and every one of them is what drives me. We are like a family,” said Kaminski.
While attempting to bring any proposal for additional spending to the fifth wealthiest district in the state under a perpetual state of austerity is certainly dead on arrival, these two teachers put in an admirable energy and passion into their roles. Kennedy and Kaminski estimate that they each clock over 900 hours of work on every production, and their biggest hope right now is that they will have the resources to continue to do so for many productions to come.
See how they pulled it off in this KDKA spotlight article! Mars Area High School Finds Way To Put On ‘Mamma Mia’ Musical