Teen actors from Puerto Rico to perform with Cherry Hill West students
It all starts with a dream. Then mix in mission, music and passion and it’s a great formula for success! These are the ingredients that quickly came together to make it possible for 30 teen actors from Colegio Ponceño Musical Theater Group in Ponce, Puerto Rico to come to Cherry Hill to perform with students from Cherry Hill High School West in “Homeroom: The Musical” They arrive on June 4 for a five-day whirlwind of a tour, visiting attractions in the Philadelphia region and perform the family musical for the school on Tuesday, June 7 at 11:30 a.m. and for the public that evening at 7 p.m. at Cherry Hill West They’ll also collaborate on the making of a music video with theater students from Cherry Hill High School West with the song called “Stand Up for Yourself.”
This event is happening due to the incredible vision of long-time Cherry Hill resident, award-winning composer, playwright, director and music therapist, Andrea Green, and her collaborator school psychologist and playwright Selma Tolins-Kaufman, from Elkins Park, Pa. They wrote the original in 1989 and the play has been performed all over the country. With messages that are universal – for kids and adults alike – the musical breaks down barriers and brings people together in friendship. With school related themes, the Homeroom characters present relevant issues that teens can relate to in these crucial growing up years.
When Green and Tolins-Kaufman visited Puerto Rico this winter to see it performed by the Colegio Ponceño Musical Theater Group, they decided the kids should perform it here, in the Philadelphia area. The passion and heart of the Ponce group was so overwhelming, as well as their desire to share the messages of acceptance of respect that are presented in Homeroom the Musical.
Homeroom the Musical serves as a model to teach tolerance to teens worldwide. Student performer Aimar Galarza said enthusiastically, “When we presented ‘Homeroom the Musical,’ I saw people in the audience cry and hold each other and I knew ‘Homeroom the Musical’ can make this world a better place.”
Bringing the Ponce teens to Cherry Hill will provide the opportunity to develop a more comprehensive teaching model for using the musical theater experience to bring teens together with acceptance. The musical will not only entertain others and be fun to perform, but help teens connect with others as they explore common issues that impact self-esteem, such as peer pressure, bullying and stress. This process will include facilitated discussions, the making of the music video called and the musical production including students from Cherry Hill and Puerto Rico. Dan Gottlieb, nationally known author and syndicated host of NPR’s “Voices in the Family” heard locally on WHYY-FM, will lead a discussion with both groups of students called “Stand Up For Yourself: Taking Care of Yourself and Others.”
Green shared her enthusiasm about bringing this talented theater group here. She said, “The biggest part of this is that kids feel better about themselves and more supportive of others. As expressed in the song, ‘I’m a Person, Too,’ they realize that everyone has weaknesses and strengths but we all share our humanity. It’s when they come to that realization, that they stop feeling shame about their insecurities and they feel more empowered to be themselves and more accepting of others.”
“These kids are so gifted and they connected so much to the musical that Selma and I wanted to share their passionate performance with others. When I told Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn and his wife Stephanie about my idea to bring Homeroom to Cherry Hill, they shared my enthusiasm and reached out to help me with open arms.”
Tolins-Kaufman added, “We believe that Homeroom should be in every school because it’s a great message and a great vehicle for teens to work together and explore together these issues that are so relevant to kids today. We hope this will create a model – doing a musical, a music workshop, creating a music video and the partnering of kids.”