After a holiday season spent raising money for others, the acclaimed Payson High School Drama Troupe will start raising money for a dream trip to a dream factory.
Already one of the most active drama groups in the state, the Payson thespians now hope to raise enough money so that 15 or 20 local kids can take a three-day trip to Hollywood for a behind the scenes look at the entertainment industry.
“They start to realize that their dreams can actually happen,” said drama teacher Kathy Syler. “They don’t need to just imagine what it’s like — they can relate to something that’s happened to them in real life. They get real life information from people actually working in the industry right now ... the guys are working actors, the people who run the tour company are working actors and the three people giving workshops are all professionals.”
For instance, the students will attend a casting workshop hosted by the most prominent casting director in Hollywood. They also get a behind the scenes tour of Warner Brothers Studios, see a professional staging of Beauty and the Beast, attend a workshop with a professional movement coach, meet with the actors who play the characters that interact with crowds at Disneyland and count the stars in Hollywood Boulevard.
The trip will cost $480 per student, which includes transportation, lodging, tours, workshops and most of their food for the three-day, two-night trip.
Syler planned the trip both to give students a taste of the world of professional entertainment — and to reward them for a year of triumphs.
The drama program at the high school and middle school involves about 120 students and about 45 students also belong to the Thespian Troupe. The 15 students in the advanced drama class work to compete on a statewide level, participate in half a dozen productions annually and often dream of a career in the movies or theater.
The drama troupe was this year recognized as a “gold honor troupe” by the Arizona Thespians Organization — based on the number of productions, activities and connections with the community.
In addition, a cast of 12 Payson students placed second in a statewide competition in November, which could make them eligible to participate in a national competition. Auditorium Director Tom Walling directed “Paper of Plastic,” about the bizarre characters that challenge the plans and assumptions of a store clerk, who must repeatedly pose the surprisingly metaphorical question: Paper or plastic?
The Payson students won out in a crowded field, with some 2,000 people attending the annual drama festival at the Convention Center in Phoenix.
“It was gargantuan,” said Syler. “Arizona has the third biggest Thespian League in the country — right after Texas and Florida.”
The Payson Thespian Troupe stages seven plays every year, including a musical — next year they’re planning a rendition of Hello Dolly.
The troupe also teamed up with the Town of Payson at Halloween to stage the haunted house, which contributed 450 pounds to the community food drive as well as cash.
Syler hopes the Hollywood trip will help bond the already tight-knit group and help students from a small town wrap their arms around a big city dream.
“Small town kids get out of Payson and see what a large, professional working city is like. Hollywood is where the magic happens — the entire world knows Hollywood USA. It’s where a lot of our identity and our culture come from — it’s from the movies. When students see where that is created, they begin to relate that to a real-life experience,” concluded Syler.