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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

High school drama program scraping by despite little funding

A student lay still on a wooden box in the F. W. Buchholz High School auditorium. The theater teacher paused his students’ practice and looked at the actress.

“I think you should lay her on the table,” said Ted Lewis, the theater teacher.

The students paused, looking confused.

“The table we still have to build,” he said and laughed.

Buchholz is facing a major financial setback going into its theater season. The Alachua County School Board gave the drama program a $399 stipend, but the school’s first show is expected to cost between $4,000 and $5,000.

Lewis, the students and their fundraisers have to make up the difference.

Aaron Faust, a 17-year-old senior at Buchholz and dual enrollment student at Santa Fe College, decided to enroll in a drama class last year and stuck with it.

Faust attended districts last year, and it cost him about $130. His mom helped him with the costs, but this year he works as a lifeguard at the YMCA to pay for theater expenses.

He plans to stay at SFC next year to finish his associate’s degree then transfer to UF or the University of Central Florida to study anesthesiology.

Buchholz Drama Program is performing the Michael York film Three Musketeers for its first of three shows this school year.

Lynn Gruman, vice president of the Buchholz Players Boosters, is helping to fundraise and advertise the show.

Every year, the program struggles to fill the seats and pay for supplies, such as stage props and costumes, Gruman said.

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Lewis said despite theater’s national popularity, funding for high school drama programs is sparse.

“We’re still like the stepchild,” he said.

Lewis said he is optimistic about the program, despite having five weeks until opening night.

“A lot of these kids — they love their art,” he said. “That’s what keeps a lot of them in class.”

In the past, parents have contributed thousands of dollars to help fund costumes, district competitions and state competitions, Gruman said.

Target provided a $2,000 grant this year, she said. It bought 17 new steel swords. This show will include three stage combat scenes, and the students will use steel swords.

Gruman said she hopes businesses will partner with the high school because having the arts in high school is essential for students to grow into well-rounded adults.

“Without these programs, our society as a whole will change drastically,” she said.

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