Time and talent: Area students collaborate to help Newton school

byDonis Tracy Pilot Correspondent

Peter Skipper and Olivia Iafrate rehearse for their leading roles in Beauty and the Beast, playing from Aug. 14-17 at the Virginia Wimberly Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts. Proceeds from the production, which draws its cast from several area schools and colleges, will go toward refurbishing the auditorium of Trinity Catholic High School in Newton. Pilot photo/ Courtesy Brian Denning

NEWTON -- So what are 30 students from seven area high schools and five colleges doing with their summer? Theyre producing a professional quality production of Disneys Beauty and the Beast to raise funds and rebuild the auditorium at Trinity Catholic High School in Newton.

The play, which will run from Aug. 14-17 at the Virginia Wimberly Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, is the brainchild of Olivia Iafrate, 17, a senior at Trinity Catholic High School.

Last spring, Iafrate, who describes herself as being involved in theater her whole life, was a cast member in Boston College High Schools production of West Side Story.

Performing at their new auditorium was amazing, she recalled. It was a great experience, and that made me think about my school. Because our auditorium is really in need of renovation, students at Trinity really dont ever get a chance to do theater at school.

Iafrate, who is playing the leading role of Belle, is pleased to think that she might have a hand in leading others to theater.

The kids that are going to go to school at Trinity after me will have a great space to get excited about, she said. I think thats really amazing.

To make her dream a reality, Iafrate turned to Brian Denning, director of advancement and alumni affairs at Trinity High School, who was very enthusiastic about the idea.

Many of our students have been forced to perform at other high schools or in community theatre because our performing arts space is outdated, Denning said. He noted that although Trinity High School was established in 1989, there has been a school on the same campus since 1894. Although the campus is beautiful, some facilities need to be updated, refurbished and made more current.

The auditorium is one of the focal points of our school, and we use it every day for Community Gathering. We are looking forward to making this space more modern, user-friendly and something we can share with others, he added.

With both Iafrate and Denning excited to launch the project--and with a sizable donation from Ipswitch, Inc. in Lexington to fund the initial expenses--Iafrate sought the help of Janet Lynn OHare, executive producer of One Strong Voice productions, who had directed Boston College High Schools West Side Story. OHare agreed to direct the production, and with her support and help, a cast of 30 young adults agreed to devote their summer to the project.

These students represent stewardship in its purest form, because they are donating their time and talents to help others, praised Denning. All of these students have dedicated their summer to helping another Catholic school, and the students that will perform in this space for years to come.

Peter Skipper, 17, a senior at Boston College High School who will star at The Beast, said he is pumped to be a part of the production.

This is a great opportunity to help raise money for a school that doesnt have a usable auditorium, but it is also a great opportunity to participate in a high-level drama production, he said.

For me its astounding to think that something that we are doing today can affect people for years to come, Skipper added. I think its really great.

According to Denning, the students have been so dedicated to raising funds for Trinity Catholic High Schools auditorium that they have decided to try to make this an annual tradition. Each year the money raised will go to another school in need.

Ticket prices for the production are $15 for students, $25 for adults, $40 for premiere seating and can be purchased either by telephone at 617-933-8600 or at www.BostonTheatreScene.com. Additional information and group pricing are available by calling Brian Denning at 617-244-1841 x314.