Jonny Schremmer | February 1 | Cougar Chronicle

Dear New School Families,

Last week we kicked off The New School’s 50th anniversary year with a compilation of past theatrical and performances in a video called TNS Rewind. Andrea Romine said the following while in front of the old stage that is now the lower school Tinkering Studio: “I was The New School drama director for 45 years. I joined The New School staff in 1972 when there was no drama program. I directed the first play in 1973 with the 24 preschool students using their very own artwork for props and costumes while parents watched with delight from child size chairs. I continued to direct classroom plays when The New School moved to the Leverett Gardens building. Later we escorted the students to the UARK theatre on Dickson Street where preschool plays were presented every year until The New School building and stage were completed in 1980 and the theatre program took flight.”

Something that makes TNS stand out above the rest is 50 years of an arts-focused education, and because of this we have a handful of parents and faculty who acted in these very productions when they were children, like parent Chelsea Brown. In the video she said, “I myself was a student at The New School about 30 years ago. We obviously love The New School, but what we love most about it is its arts and drama program. It’s so unique and special to the school and teaches the children in a different way. It’s different than their daily grind of learning and sitting at their tables. This is the learning of coming together and memorizing your parts and the sense of camaraderie you feel and the practices and the rehearsals and getting together with your peers and finding your role, whether you are the leading part or whether you’re shy. They always find their place and they love what they accomplish when they’re finished with their role. They can’t wait to show their parents, their families, their teachers … the joy that you see on their faces on the stage. You know that they've worked really hard and have accomplished something in their eyes and in our eyes, too. So a couple years ago I got to see my son perform in the “Farnahan’s Circus,” which was a production I was involved with several years back, and to relive that was really magical. It’s something I’ll never forget. And I just can't wait till we can have these productions in person once again because they’re just so special to the school. We feel so thankful to be a part of it.”

From our dressing room, parent of a tenth grader and former student actor Mary Daut added, “When I attended The New School, it was in its early days of production, and as a kindergartener I got to play Mrs. Claus which was a wonderful experience, mainly due to Andrea Romine who was our drama teacher at the time. She always made it so enjoyable and the kids feel at ease. It was all about the experience and not about having it perfect. Now as a New School parent, my son has been there since he was two, and he got to play the part of Santa in the same production when he was in kindergarten. It was a very special and unique experience, especially since Mrs. Andrea was at one of the productions with him.”

Andrea Romine, Betty Butcher and eventually Amy Mason directed countless productions starring countless children on the little stage over the next couple of decades, When I began working here in 2014, the drama program was ending its run on the small stage, and I was lucky enough to be a part of the transition moving into the beautiful auditorium. I remember standing in the space wearing hard hats with the three of them while it was still a construction site, and watching tears fill their eyes as they imagined the productions that would happen over the following years. And there have been many, many productions!

It was bittersweet going through old DVDs of “The Magical Forest,” “Peter Pan” and “Farnahan’s Circus” as decisions were made about which scenes and songs to include in the video. It’s been over a year now since the Andrea Romine Stage had live performances on it, and though students play and work on that stage in class everyday, it’s not quite the same. This week I brought down the movie screen and showed the fifth graders their 2019 production of “101 Dalmatians.” From the very seats where their audience sat over a year ago, they laughed, giggled and sang along while their fourth grade selves performed in the very same spot on the stage, albeit in a recording. Screens are replacing real life this year, and while I’m so thankful for them, I’m counting down the days when we can have auditions, costume fittings, rehearsals and most of all performances with a sold-out crowd once again. I like to call it TNS Forward. 

With Cougar Pride,

 

Jonny Schremmer

The New School Arts Director

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