The Brightest High School Theatres in the Country - Hudson High School

Chris Peterson

Every actor, director, designer, stage manager started somewhere. For many of us, it was in high school. Every year we see thousands upon thousands of future theatre professionals start their journeys on various high schools stage across the country. 

So here at OnStage, every week, we want to honor high school theatre programs all over the country that are making the performing arts, a priority within their curriculum, not to mention putting on some fantastic productions. 

If you know a high school in your area that is doing an incredible job of laying the foundation for future theatre professionals, let us know by emailing, cpeterson@onstageblog.com

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Hudson High School - Hudson, MA

This week we head up north to Hudson High School in Hudson, MA where students are putting on some incredible theatre just an hour outside of Boston. 

Under the keen direction of Kathleen McKenzie, students at Hudson are not only performing high quality and challenging productions, they're also taking the right type of classes to prepare them for not only most BFA programs but to become theatre professionals as well. 

One such class is History, Literature, and Performance. In this year long course, students will explore the history and transformation of theatre from its early years to today.  During the two year rotation of this class, we will focus on Theatre and Musical Theatre.  Students will learn how the historical events of the time affected the styles of the day and they will enhance their performing abilities by producing numerous scenes throughout the course.  Students must work both independently and cooperatively in this performance based class.

The HHS Drama Society puts on eight (EIGHT) performances a year, including two musicals, a classical play, an 8th & 9th grade play, an improv show, an advanced theatre class play, a festival play and "The Competitive Plays," where every grade (7-12) does a short play and the older grades are judged on various aspects of their performances. At the end of year, the students all come together for a Drama Society Banquet.

What's also great to see is the variety of shows Hudson puts on. This year they'll be taking on the likes of Spamalot, The Children's Hour and Honk! (a personal favorite of mine). 

Alumni of Hudson have gone off to some colleges with great theatre programs including, Emerson College, Hofstra University and SUNY Purchase. 

From all of us at Onstage, best wishes to everyone at Hudson High School this year!

The Brightest High School Theatres in the Country - Westfield High School

Chris Peterson

Every actor, director, designer, stage manager started somewhere. For many of us, it was in high school. Every year we see thousands upon thousands of future theatre professionals start their journeys on various high schools stage across the country. 

So here at OnStage, every week, we want to honor high school theatre programs all over the country that are making the performing arts, a priority within their curriculum, not to mention putting on some fantastic productions. 

If you know a high school in your area that is doing an incredible job of laying the foundation for future theatre professionals, let us know by emailing, cpeterson@onstageblog.com

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Westfield High School -  Westfield, NJ

High Schools in close proximity to New York City are almost expected to have strong performing arts programs. But teacher Dan Devlin and the students at Westfield High School in Westfield, NJ are taking it to a whole other level. 

Westfield High School's production of "Anyone Can Whistle"

Westfield High School's production of "Anyone Can Whistle"

Just 40 minutes from Broadway, Mr. Devlin and his students aren't just producing some of best high school theatre in the country.

What makes this program so special? First is the approach they have towards education their students. They instill the philosophy that the performing arts develops numerous skills for the individual, including self confidence, creativity, analytical thinking, empathy, discipline, and an appreciation for our culture and our history. Their mission is to help every student reach their highest potential as an artist and as an individual. 

Recent productions of Urinetown (2015) and Pippin (2012) were nominated for best musical in the state by the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards and Sweeney Todd (2011) won that coveted honor from a field of 100 high schools all across the Garden State. Many, other awards were won by students actors, the members of the design team (both student and faculty), and the creative heads of direction, choreography, and music direction. 

"The Sondheim Review – a quarterly magazine dedicated to the work of the musical theatre and Broadway composer and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, has included in its Fall 2014 publication a stunning commentary on Westfield High School’s production of Anyone Can Whistle.  The Sondheim Review praised the “obvious collaboration taking place, the connection of each performer to her or his role, and the remarkable product of this work that ultimately showed up onstage.” 

Thanks to the amazing introduction to theatre these students are receiving at Westfield, many of them are going on to the best college programs in the country such as CCM, Boston Conservatory, Ithaca College and Syracuse University. 

Even a further testament to this special program are comments from its students. One said,

"Mr. Devlin is a very humble man and won’t take much credit for what has happened at this NJ high school, but as you can see, in such a short time he has changed the lives of many students and taught creativity, individual responsibility, tolerance, and in short—great, great art."

Our deepest congratulations to Westfield High School's theatre department and we wish them nothing but the best with their upcoming production of The Cherry Orchard....A high school taking on Chekov....love it!