Checking In

Article excerpt

Stage Directions catches up with last year's winner of its Technical Theater Grant to find out how they have benefited from it.

When Teresa Cybulski goes to a staff meeting at Buckeye High School in Rayland, Ohio, these days, she brings more than a notepad with her. She brings a newfound confidence, fueled by the Stage Directions Technical Theater Grant awarded to her school in 2005.

Like the lion in The Wizard of Oz who gained courage after receiving a medal, or the scarecrow who was reminded of how smart he was after receiving a diploma, all of us need acknowledgement in order to flourish. For Cybulski, the $ 1,000 gift given by SD, plus almost $20,000 worth of donated technical supplies, provided her with not only a psychological boost, but a financial one as well.

Once her school received the SD award, a state matching grant soon followed, enabling her theater to install its own permanent lighting and sound equipment for the first time. It also made the principal of her school take her department and her contributions more seriously.

It's easy to see how the administrators at Buckeye High School might not have made theater their first priority. "Rayland is a town of miners and steel workers," Cybulski says. "Many of them are unemployed. Some of the parents of my students don't even have cars to transport them to shows at night. That, coupled with the fact that sports was the big thing around here ... that's where all the revenue was. Theater was at the bottom of the totem pole."

Emerging as a coal-mining town in the late 19th century, Rayland now has a population of about 490 people. Although the high school integrates several neighboring small towns into one school district, the school could never rival the larger, more cosmopolitan schools in nearby Wheeling, West Virginia, or Stubenville, Ohio, in terms of size and preference for theater. Until Cybulski took over the department five years ago, that is.

It was then that the former elementary school music teacher convinced the superintendent that theater was just what these high school kids needed. She was sure that it was a fabulous way to enhance self-esteem and provide these kids with an alternative to the sports-dominated world that her school seemed to facilitate. She launched a production of My One and Only, managing to garner help from the 1983 Broadway show's famed choreographer. Tommy Tune, as well as Tune's assistant choreographer, Nikkl Harris, who had recently moved to Ohio.

The performance received rave reviews and got everyone excited about future presentations. But the theater facility, although relatively new, had absolutely no lighting equipment. …