Since its launch in 2013, PLAYBILLder has allowed schools and organizations across the U.S. the chance to build their very own Broadway quality Playbill program!
The Gaston Day School in Gastonia, NC, is one of the latest schools to take advantage of the one-of-a-kind resource that puts its production front and center in a professional way.
Holly Mason, the show’s director, attended the Broadway Teachers Workshop in New York City this past summer. The intensive brings together teachers from across the U.S. to train with and learn from Broadway professionals.
Playbill caught up with Mason in the midst of Mary Poppins rehearsals and spoke with her about tackling the technically demanding production with her students.
The stage musical has some different moments from the film. What was it like to explore this new version with students?
HM: I was lucky enough to see the new production in London when it first opened, so I knew it was different. It is really funny, as the cast has not really asked or commented on the differences as much as I thought they would. We talk a lot about telling the story as it is on the pages in front of us, trying not to compare it to anything before us.
Can you speak about the moment Mary Poppins took flight for the first time?
HM: Mary will take flight this week. We are very excited to have Flying By Foy help out once again with this task. I know that our Mary is very excited to fly herself. There is nothing more exciting than being able to create that moment of magic on stage. In this show, you are not only able to make magic [by flying], but also in other ways. Even though it can be a daunting task to do, it is extremely fun—especially hearing the reaction from the audience.
Mary Poppins requires a huge set. How did you tackle this with a team of students?
HM: We have been very fortunate to have crew members along with volunteer parents who have tackled the set beyond our wildest dreams. Since the scenes go back and forth many times, we have tried to make sure that every piece has mobility. Now it is a matter of choreography backstage as much as on stage.
Your production requires a great deal of participation from parents in your school community. Can you speak about how the musical brings the school community together in a unique way?
HM: The parents are involved in the set in a huge way, and all parents are asked to be part of the production in some way by making costumes, creating and finding props, decorating the lobby, selling tickets and concessions, etc. We are very fortunate that our parents seem to love the process, and it allows them to meet families that they might not come in contact with otherwise, since the children are in grades 5-12. We even have parents of graduates who come back to help, which is unique, I truly believe.
Can you speak a bit about your experience with the Broadway Teacher’s Workshop?
HM: I have been fortunate enough to participate in this workshop for over 15 years. There are always ideas and activities that I am able to take back and share either in a classroom setting or for a production. I think it keeps those teachers who go the ability to forge ahead each year.