Byline: Justin Kmitch Daily Herald Staff Writer
When the final curtain drops at about 9 p.m. May 3 at Wood Dale Junior High, several teachers, students and community members fear it may be for the last time in a while.
About 150 junior high students have spent hundreds of hours over the past 60 days preparing for next week's operetta of "Hello, Dolly!" It will be the first production in the school's attached fine arts center, which opened last winter.
The junior high students have put on a production every year since about the late 1960s, but this year's performance will be different. Chorus and music teacher Mary Gomez will retire after producing this one, her 32nd operetta.
Gomez said she hopes the music teacher hired to replace her will continue the tradition, but teachers and administrators fear future performances, if any happen, will not compare with Gomez's work.
"Mary's productions have really become something of a tradition in the district," Superintendent Mike Smoot said. "She and her fabulous work will be missed."
Twelve-year-old Casey Anderson performs in the chorus and dances in several scenes. The time she has put into learning the dances and songs has definitely cut into her other extracurricular activities and time with her friends.
"But it's worth it to be a part of the tradition," Casey said. "I have six older brothers and sisters, and every one of them has been in or starred in an operetta."
Seventh-grader Mike Szajnowski said he helped on the set last year, working the lights, and this year is in the chorus and plays a waiter. The operetta is organized, as well as performed, by the students. …