Show explores how state funding affects schools

After more than 200 hours of interviews that started last year, production staff for the touring performance “School Play” cut their research into a show that lasted about an hour.

The Philadelphia-based tour group made its way to State College Area High School on Thursday to spread the word — through the arts — about how state funding affects schools.

And it came during a time the state is about three months past due on approving a budget.

Creator Seth Bauer said every line in the documentary-style play was a direct quote from the more than 100 Pennsylvania educators, politicians, parents and others they spoke with.

But their work went beyond performing.

The actors, directors and writers worked with about 15 students during daytime workshops at the high school.

State High Thespians adviser and director Jill Campbell said the group held two sessions -- one about writing and the other on advocacy for the arts.

“You can just talk about public issues or you can address them through arts,” Campbell said. “This explores that issue visually.”

The five actors each performed numerous monologues that reflected off each other to describe the good and bad of school systems through different perspectives including students, teachers, parents and politicians.

Campbell said she worked with the school’s student services adviser who gained information about “School Play” through Penn State.

“It was a nice way to bring them here and get students involved,” Campbell said.

The State High Thespians and the high school Learning Enrichment program helped promote the event.

Senior Lilly Sublett said she and some of her peers were able to work behind the scenes and as ushers at the school’s auditorium during the performance.

“It was cool because we were able to see what it takes to put on a production from all angles,” she said. “The fact that we were able to help and learn so much from the workshops made it kind of easy to gain that understanding of all the hard work that goes into something being successful.”

Sublett, 17, plans to study technical theater programming with an emphasis in directing at Penn State or University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

During part of the workshop, she was able to write and perform a monologue from the perspective of a high school senior from a low-income community.

“Where you’re from shouldn’t define the kind of education you receive,” Sublett said.

Also a part of student government, Sublett said it allows her to see how things like district and state budgets affect schools.

“Especially with the high school referendum, we can kind of see how it can be hard for the school (district) to manage financially without a lot of help from the state,” she said. “I was able to help give a student’s point of view about what we’d like to see in the new high school, and learned what it will take to make it a reality.”