Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School has a long and colorful history when it comes to the performing arts. For decades, the all-school musical was one of the focal points of each academic year. The announcement of the production during opening week was always much-anticipated, and the rehearsals and shows were happenings that brought the entire school community together. That tradition continues now with two annual productions featuring various grade levels that allow more of our student performers to showcase their talents.
Budding actors, singers, musicians, dancers and more are present every year within our student body, and our dedicated faculty work each day to encourage and bring out the best in these developing artists. Students excel not only in fine arts, but in many areas, through their consistent passion, hard work, and creativity.
Since the founding of the school, however, a good deal of energy has been centered around creating appropriate spaces for student performers to practice and advance their craft. Whether it was transforming an acoustically challenging and uncomfortable gymnasium into a working theater or converting classroom spaces into band venues and a playhouse, teachers, students, and volunteers have taken on the challenge with gusto. Instead of bemoaning deficiencies, it has always been a labor of love for those involved to create first-class art in makeshift surroundings.
But the time has come for the hard work of past, present, and future to be rewarded.
Imagine opening night and the feeling of excitement when the lights dim and the curtain rises for the first time at the performing arts center. Gone will be decades of improvisation and wondering “can we do this?” Instead, the facility will provide a welcoming home for spectators and a place for young artists to learn on—and behind—the stage.
Saint Stephen’s alumni and budding professional actors Gabriella (’10) and Griffin Guinta (’12) said it best in a recent letter to the school: “We’re more than ecstatic to know that future Falcons will have the chance to spread their wings in a brand new theater. Even if Broadway isn’t ultimately your calling, there are so many lessons and values to be learned within a theatrical space. You learn to be confident. You learn that making mistakes is okay. And most importantly, you learn that everyone deserves a chance to be heard.”
In addition to theater and music productions, the multi-use facility will be able to host a wide variety of functions, including graduation ceremonies, dances, guest speakers, luncheons and much more.
This project is the product of a wonderful collaboration between Saint Stephen’s and Christ Episcopal Church that will culminate in the construction of the performing arts center and a new thrift shop/food pantry for the church. Total cost is estimated at approximately $6-million, which includes a $1-million endowment for the future maintenance of the building.
The performing arts center is a critical and final piece of the Saint Stephen’s Master Plan and it is my hope that you will join me by offering your support. This facility will not only create a dynamic new home for the arts at SSES, but it will be shared with the community, further strengthening the school’s leadership role in Manatee County.