Individual + Community: Inly Players Production Brings Everyone Together
Article by Donna Milani Luther, Head of School
Seven years ago, I sat down with a small group at Inly to discuss new and creative ways to broaden our presence in the community. We asked ourselves, “where do our talents lie?” and realized that a theatrical performance would be an excellent extension of our existing arts program. Our first show was Peter Pan, followed by Annie, then Oliver, The Wizard of Oz, Beauty and the Beast, and Willy Wonka. This year, the Inly Players will be putting on the school’s seventh production, and I’m thrilled that it will be the light-hearted, timeless story of The Music Man
The Music Man is traditional American theater. It’s Americana from a different era — when life was far simpler. And yet, audience members today can still relate to the themes because they remain relevant. The concerns over a pool hall taking the town’s youth down the wrong path are not unlike our present day concerns over videogames and television shows. Ultimately, The Music Man illustrates how a community responds to change and learns to embrace it.
The Inly Player performances have become a hallmark for our school and we’re proud to say that no other school does anything quite like it. Because we include students from grade 3 and up, alumni, parents, faculty, staff and board members in the production, everyone comes together to work toward a common goal. The performance is truly children’s theater at its best and teaches our students a great deal about the enrichment of individual and community and how they are inextricably linked. While each individual shines on the stage, the show demonstrates how we are all greater than the sum of our parts.
When our students are given the opportunity to stand up on stage in front of an audience, they become more and more comfortable in their own skin. This comfort translates to other areas of their lives – from public speaking to job interviews—and allows them to better answer the important question, “Who am I?” Acting lets our students PRETEND, which is something that can feel considerably less threatening than being themselves. They do not feel vulnerable or exposed. Being in character is freeing and inspires creativity, imagination and personal growth.
As Head of School, I play the role of “Director” every day,. What I love about participating in the Inly Players’ performances is that I am no longer the Director but rather, a performer working alongside my fellow performers. The students have the opportunity to watch me and other adults stumble through lines or struggle to sing a high note. I think this experience is very encouraging and educational. It shows them how hard work pays off and how the rewards are appreciated at any age.
The Inly Players is comprised of students, faculty, staff, parents, trustees, alumni, and even professional actors. Because of this wonderful integration, our performances have become a community builder. Adults and children alike spend time together outside of the classroom, learning dances, singing songs and reciting lines. All the shared time and effort that goes into each number results in a special camaraderie. Friendships are forged and strengthened while learning and engagement happens in a most joyous way.
Two years ago, Scott Wahle, a seasoned stage actor and dear friend, joined the Inly Players for the first time. One night, Scott was backstage, preparing for his performance when he overheard a group of Middle School students discussing the economic situation in China. Later that evening, Scott mentioned this to me and asked me in amazement, “Where do you find Middle School students discussing the economy of China so comfortably?!” I laughed and replied, “We grow them at Inly.”
Working together toward a common goal teaches our students invaluable team-building skills. Everybody wins… and that is a truly special intersection.
To see an article and accompanying photos on the Inly Players production of The Music Man, click here.