North Penn Thespians Celebrate 20th Annual BC/EFA Gala

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TOWAMENCIN- With dozens of clubs hosting meetings, competitions, and events every week throughout the walls of NPHS, it is sometimes difficult to stop and notice, or attend, the memorable and special ones. This past Friday night, one of those truly remarkable events occurred.

Thespian Troupe #5464 hosted the 20th annual Knight of the Arts Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids Gala, an annual fundraiser that raises money and awareness for those battling HIV and AIDS. Hundreds of high school thespian troupes across the country hold BC/EFA galas each year, but North Penn’s event is one of a kind as they were the first high school in America to began to raise money for Broadway Cares.

Way back in 1999, senior Ryan Williams was struggling to decide what he wanted to do for his graduation project. After having a conversation with then Theatre Director and recently inducted Knight of Honor Cynthia Louden, Ryan called the NYC offices of BC/EFA and asked if he could host a gala to highlight the talents of North Penn’s thespians.

Joe Norton, who picked up the phone at the BC/EFA offices, loved the idea and gave Williams info about BC/EFA and the fight to help those suffering with AIDS. Joe also had the idea to host a silent auction, where members of the community could bid on Broadway memorabilia.

Mark Weinstein, who was Thespian Troupe #5464 President at the time of Williams’ graduation, was later elected to the Pennsylvania State Thespian Board of Directors as a student delegate, and then to the International Thespian Student Board. As Mark began to have more and more authoritative positions, he began to spread Willliams’ idea to high schools across the country, and the rest is history.

Before donations from this year’s gala were added to the total, Thespian Troupe #5464 has donated $84,106 to the BC/EFA organization.

“The 20th Anniversary of the Knight of the Arts Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Gala and Fundraiser was a night that truly celebrated all the arts at North Penn High School and the students who share their passion and talents with generosity and joy. For 20 years our students have put their energies to helping others.  We know we passed our $85,000 goal Friday night, but we don’t know by how much yet, as the donations are still coming in. Our community is blessed with parents who raise their students to have compassion for others and with young people who reach beyond themselves and find the empathy to see a greater purpose. I couldn’t be prouder of Co-coordinators of the evening, Shannan Wenzel and Tori Quinn and all the other Thespians who worked so tirelessly. We are also grateful to Michael DiBianco and Broadway Cares for supporting our efforts and our students for 20 years and for celebrating with us. We look forward to continuing the celebration at the International Thespian Festival in June with members of the Educational Theatre Association and many other Thespians who have been part of this national effort,” expressed North Penn Theatre Director Andrea Roney.

The 20th Annual Gala kicked off with solo performances during the ‘Coffee House’ portion of the night. The main stage performances were wide ranging, from previews of the upcoming middle and high school musicals, solo and group vocal performances, dance routines, and the iconic ‘Popcorn Dance’.

“Planning it was a bit stressful, there was a lot of organization required. Shannan and I had a lot to do to prepare. We wrote the script for the night, we went through tall the auditions sent us and approved of all the acts and put them in orders we saw fit. We had to email people back and forth. We were constantly in contact with Michael DiBianco. And we were doing as much as we can to try and make the night perfect because this was a big deal to us all. But Friday night, all that stress of organizing the event kind of disappeared, cause all that we had been working on was finally here. And to be honest I think I was too busy living in the moment to even worry. Seeing everything play out as it did, I felt a sense of pride, and Friday night turned out better than i could of hoped. Everyone worked so hard to make it an amazing night, and I believe that because of everyone’s help Friday was amazing,” reflected BC/EFA co-coordinator Tori Quinn.

Thespian Troupe #5464 has reached over $88,000 dollars raised after this year’s gala, and donations are still coming in. 

Thespian Troupe $5464 Recording Secretary Maddy Burk concluded, “Broadway Cares is such a special event, and I’m honored to have been part of it since middle school. I always love to see other students in theatre and other arts programs from the high school and middle schools show off all of their hard work and talent for a good cause. This gala has been an incredible experience every year I’ve been involved, I’m so proud that we have continuously contributed to the fight against AIDS for the past 20 years, and I know I’ll miss being part of it, but my excitement for the next 10, 20, 50 years of Broadway Cares far overshadows that.”

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