Program Feature: Ferndale High School Theatre

The Addams Family performed at Ferndale High School (Photo Courtesy of Slade Brockett)

Photo Caption: Ferndale High School Theatre performs The Addams Family.  

Photo Courtesy of Slade Brockett.

Ferndale High School Theatre recently completed its production of The Addams Family, performing the light-hearted, quirky comedy about the spooky Addams family on six dates spanning late February and early March.

Integral to Ferndale Theatre productions are the leadership of directors Rachel Pringle and Crissy Ford, who have been working together with Ferndale School District Theatre over the last 11 years. For a program spotlight, the two recently sat down to talk about Ferndale High School Theatre and share insights into work that goes into a production.

Planning a Production

Production planning for shows such as The Addams Family typically starts about a year before the show dates with the show selection process. Pringle and Ford noted the decision for a high school production involves finding a show that fits the current students’ skills and interests, which includes asking for student input.

“We select a show and decide what we want to do the next year based on the senior class – their abilities, skills and desires, and we ask for their opinions," Ford said. She explains, "We like to get a feel for what they’re excited about, and then find a show that fits the skill level with a show we think they would enjoy and that we can manage."

In selecting shows year after year, Ford and Pringle work to balance the types of shows when choosing productions – for example, contrasting the light-hearted nature of The Addams Family with last year's production, Fiddler on the Roof.

After a production is announced, auditions take place in November for winter productions, with rehearsals until shows in late February and March.

A Team Effort

Ferndale High School Theatre productions provide involvement from a wide range of students, creating many opportunities for contribution. Depending on the year, approximately 100 to 150 students are involved in a high school production, Pringle said.

"There are students painting backdrops and set, playing in the orchestra, helping with hair, makeup, costumes and other assistance, and then those in the cast and stage crew," Ford said. "We also have an all-student tech crew, so student impact is everywhere."

Amid the student contributions, Ford and Pringle said they value the kindness and respect between students in many roles as they come together as a team - including those that may be competing against one another during auditions for roles in the production.

"I think I'm most proud of the culture of the kids in our program," Ford said. "They are encouraging to one other and connected to one another – they're accepting of one another and come from lots of different places in the school – there many students from different groups and outside interests, and they come together to do this as a team."

Pride, Commitment and Community Involvement

Pringle and Ford value the student experience gained through participating in the productions, noting the traits of dedication, diligence and creativity developed through involvement. Along with those aspects are student ownership and pride in the productions.

"The students are very independent and responsible for themselves, they mentor one another and help one other out," Ford said. "It means a lot to them so they work hard, they do it a lot themselves without our asking. They love it and take pride in it - we inherited a good, strong program which was very nice."

Productions also include important volunteer involvement from parents and community members, which Pringle and Ford value as a way to get to know families and receive community support.

The commitment, pride and community involvement were all showcased during The Addams Family production.

“Highlights of the show were the wonderful performances of the individual students - their vocals and dancing were superb,” Ford said. “I also appreciated the beautiful set built by Don Pringle and a large group of our ‘show dads’ who came out to construct it together. I think the kids had a great time performing such a silly dark comedy with over-the-top characters and a really unique chorus of ghostly ancestors. The message of the show was a commitment to family as the Addams Family navigated change and learned to love each other better.”

In addition to theatre productions at the high school and middle school levels, Ford and Pringle also look forward to the fifth summer of the Ferndale Theatre summer youth camp, an opportunity for kids 8 and up.

“We love the kids a lot,” Pringle said. “Planning the shows is not early as fun as being with the kids and putting on shows - that's the rewarding part.”

Young Americans Graphic

A Special Theatre Visit to the Ferndale School District

The Young Americans, a traveling tour theatre group, recently visited the Ferndale School District and provided a three-day workshop March 3-5 for approximately 250 participating students to experience performing arts with teaching from college-age performers.

“The Young Americans workshop features 45 college-age kids, who are talented performers and full of energy trained to work with students on all levels,” said Frances Genger, teacher at Vista Middle School and local event coordinator for The Young Americans workshop.

Held in the Ferndale High School gym, students at the workshop gained experience with a variety of performing arts exercises including choral sessions, lyrical dance, improv and theatre.

Geared for students in 3rd through 12th grades, the workshop provided age-based elementary, middle school and high school instruction.  Part of the instruction was preparation for an evening production show that took place in the evening following the last day of the workshop.

Young Americans performed for student, parents and community members during the first part of the show, before an intermission break followed by a group segment featuring workshop students putting on a show.

Beyond the theatre-specific instruction, Genger said the workshop provided an environment of encouragement and empowerment. A noted highlight was the opportunity to see students of all ages interacting and working together – both for students experienced with performing arts and students trying something new in a supportive environment.

“One of the core aspects of The Young Americans workshops is helping kids to believe in themselves,” Genger said. “Regardless of skill level, they clearly leave with a sense of accomplishment. Any time kids can try something new and different, it empowers them.”

The Young Americans visited Ferndale for the second time, after previously holding a workshop 2015. Both times the largest student turnout of the three-month tour has come during their stop in Ferndale, Genger said.

During each Ferndale tour stop, a Ferndale High School alum has been a part of the Young Americans. Frances Genger’s daughter, Maddie Genger, was a member of the Young Americans during the first tour visit, while Ferndale's Alex Sim is a part of current tour. Approximately 15 current Ferndale students auditioned for the Young Americans following the show on the current tour, Genger said.

Genger also said community support was integral to the workshop taking place. Approximately 20 homes housed the visiting Young Americans during the tour, and downtown businesses providing welcome signs. Ferndale School District PTSOs donated workshop registration scholarships for students as well.

Thank you, Ferndale, for supporting performing arts in the Ferndale School District and community.