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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 12, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 19
5th Avenue Theatre and Broadway composers team up to raise money for famed Oregon high school theater program!
Arts & Entertainment
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5th Avenue Theatre and Broadway composers team up to raise money for famed Oregon high school theater program!

by MK Scott - SGN A&E Writer

Everything I learned about theater and performance I learned from my high school drama teacher and as a Gay kid in the late 80s it really helped me stay in school and come out. My high school drama teacher was a legend and a well-known musical theater director in the Portland theater scene for over 40 years.

James Erickson was also the head of the Beaverton High School Theater Arts Department for 29 years from 1970 to 1999, and was an enduring mentor to Broadway stars such as Brooks Ashmanskas (currently in Sunday in the Park with George), Shoshana Bean (Wicked), indie film star, Jesse Archer (A Four Letter Word, Going Down in LaLa Land), Pixar's Angus MacLane and NPR's Ari Shapiro.

After Ericksons retirement in 1999 and sudden death in 2004, the Beaverton High Drama Department struggled for over a decade up until last year, when Mr. Shannon Dery stepped up to lead a new generation of theater (and queer) students.

To get some support last year, I contacted my celebrity friends and was able to get Olivia Newton-John to do a small shout out to ask people to help save the schools 2016 production of Grease. We raised over $3,000, and as a bonus, many alumni that hadnt visited their high school in decades came back and pledged their support for Ericksons successor.

So how do we top Olivia Newton-John this year?

It was luck that Beaverton chose Terrence McNallys musical adaptation of the classic film Catch Me If You Can, which made its world premiere at Seattles 5th Avenue Theatre (starring Broadway stars, Norbet Leo Butz and Aaron Tviet). So I contacted 5th Avenue Theatres Artistic Director, David Armstrong, who encouraged me to get in touch with the composers, Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman (Hairspray), who agreed to record the shout-out this year and then totally surprised me by arranging a cameo appearance from the king of Broadway himself, Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights, Hamilton)!

Also, thanks to the 5th Avenue Theatre, Shaiman and Whitman will be autographing up to 3 posters from the 5th Avenue Theatres 2009 production of Catch Me If You Can, one of which has already sold, which can be purchased at the $750 and the $1000 level via www.gofundme.com/support-bhss-musical-fund.

Beaverton Highs goal is to raise over $5,000 to cover the cost of a professional choreographer.

I had to ask Armstrong how important a choreographer is to this particular show and he responded, The original choreographer was Jerry Mitchell and he really left his mark on the show. The show is about a guy who travels constantly and the movement plays a big role in bringing that story to life.

Armstrong added, It is thrilling for us to now have several shows like Catch Me If You Can that received their World Premier at The 5th, went to Broadway, and have now entered the great cannon of the American Musical Theater and are being produced frequently in professional, amateur and high school productions.

The 5th Avenue Theatre has always been supportive of high school musical programs.

Our 15th Annual 5th Avenue Awards will be held on June 12, Armstrong said. This program was established to honor the amazing work that is happening in high school theater programs throughout Washington state. This year a record 100 high schools will participate. The goal is provide at least some measure of the recognition and attention that high school sports programs regularly receive. We believe that putting on a musical is one of the most deeply educational activities there is.

And next week, on Wednesday, May 17, Broadway star and 5th Avenue Theatre favorite, Shoshana Bean will return to Beaverton High School after a 22 year absence to give hope and encouragement to the new generation.

If you want to help the Beaverton High School Dramatics achieve their goal of $5,000, please visit, contribute and check out the star-studded campaign video at www.gofundme.com/support-bhss-musical-fund. Donations to GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) are also encouraged. Check out glsen.org/support/giving.

MK Scott is a Seattle-based blogger and chair of the James N. Erickson Legacy Project at Beaverton High School. Check out his blog at outviewonline.com.

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5th Avenue Theatre and Broadway composers team up to raise money for famed Oregon high school theater program!
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