Francis Parker Theater Arts
Facilities – Goshen Campus
A $3.4 million-dollar theater and lobby renovation was completed in the fall of 2019 on our Goshen Campus that provides our Preschool through High School students with a completely updated space to support our National Youth Arts award-winning theater arts program. The 4,000-square-foot addition and renovation includes seating for 300 in the new theater, an outdoor amphitheater and classroom space, and a revamped main entryway with a new modern canopy. Design features include the use of natural wood throughout and a large southern canopy and tall glass walls that frame the campus’ verdant back fields, while keeping light and heat levels manageable within the theater. The theater is outfitted with a modern digital lighting and audio system, a new mechanical system, and fixed theater seating for the upper half of the theater, which allows greater comfort for the audience, while maintaining the child-oriented open-tiered amphitheater-style seating for the lower half of the theater, which mirrors the “amps” in the other wings of the campus. Click here to see more about the first production in the new theater.
Facilities – Downtown Campus
While larger High School productions are performed in our Goshen Campus Theater, the Downtown Campus features a nearly 1900 square foot Performing Arts Space, set up as a black box theater with a light and sound booth and ample backstage and storage area. The space is very flexible and can incorporate risers and a stage set-up in several ways. This is the space where our vocal and music groups practice and perform most of the time, and is also where we usually perform our Showcase of Student-Written and -Directed Plays in the fall.
Middle School Productions
Theater on our Goshen Campus was originally founded as the “St. Francis Drama Project” by French teacher and Drama legend Ed Gupton in 1970. He was the Director of the Drama Project until 2003. In 1993, he named Reed Gabhart as Associate Director, and the two collaborated until Ed named Reed as his successor in 2003. These two Directors have led the Goshen Campus program for over 50 years. Under Reed’s leadership, the School began to enter its productions in the National Youth Arts Awards, in which it has achieved great success and consistent recognition. Reed also took over leadership of the High School Drama Program in 2020-21, bringing consistent leadership and the same outstanding quality to the entire Middle and High School program.
In 2022, with the School’s name change, the program, too, transformed into Francis Parker Theater Arts.The goal of Francis Parker Theater Arts in Middle School is to provide students with the opportunity to participate in adult productions of works of depth from the past and present. Thought is given to the four-year cycle of works so that Middle School participants will have the opportunity to experience comedies, dramas, musicals, and the classics, such as Shakespeare. Students are expected to rise to the challenge and take part in every aspect of theater: acting, directing, stagecraft, set and lighting design, etc.
- 2021-22: Zink; Sister Act, Jr
- 2020-21: Consider the Lobster; Ten/Two
- 2019-20: Our Town; The Government Inspector (canceled due to the pandemic)
- 2018-19: The Odd Couple; The Sound of Music
- 2017-18: You Can’t Beat the House; A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- 2016-17: Anne Frank & Me; Anything Goes
- 2015-16: The Importance of Being Earnest; The Birds
- 2014-15: Fools; Oliver!
- 2013-14: Harvey; A Comedy of Errors
- 2012-13: John Lennon and Me; Bye Bye Birdie
3rd/4th Grade Production
Exposing musical plays to younger students affords them the opportunity to try musical theater for the first time, while allowing them to do this with their classmates. It isn’t an extracurricular activity, rather this is part of the curriculum. Participating in the 3rd/4th grade play gives students a chance to collaborate with their peers while reinforcing concepts in the music room, not to mention helping with public speaking. This show is aimed primarily at 4th graders and interested 3rd graders may be in the chorus. Recent shows have included Seussical Jr., Peter Pan, Jr., Lion King Kids, The Jungle Book, Jr. and Schoolhouse Rock, Live Jr.
Summer Musical Theater Camps
This is a two-week intensive program that gives its participants the opportunity to pull together a one-hour musical production, but gives them room to work backstage, paint, help design costumes, and most recently, incorporates alums serving as interns that are pursuing degrees in the arts. Recent shows have included Annie Jr., Willy Wonka Jr., Into The Woods Jr., Footloose, Aladdin Jr., The Little Mermaid, Jr., Hairspray, Jr., High School Musical, Jr., Legally Blonde, Matilda, Jr.
High School Productions
The aim of Francis Parker Theater Arts in our High School is to elicit creative expression, social awareness, critical thinking, and artistry through our productions. We are committed to producing relevant works that allow our students to grow as performers, directors, and stage technicians. Our aim is to provide an engaging and vital theatrical experience for students and audience alike.
Students have the opportunity to participate in two productions every year. The fall production alternates between a full-length play and the Showcase of Student-Written and -Directed Plays. The latter is a longtime tradition, providing students the opportunity to create their own artistic visions, collaborate with their peers, and share their work with the school and the larger community. Plays for the Showcase are generally written in a Playwriting elective course. In alternate years, the production is a comedy or drama. Our spring production each year is typically a larger play, either a drama or comedy or, in alternating years, a musical. Recent productions include:
- 2022-23 The Showcase of Student-Written and – Directed Plays; Mamma Mia!
- 2021-22 The Gorges Motel; The Curious Savage
- 2020-21 Reindeer Games; Almost, Maine
- 2019-20 The Showcase of Student-Written and – Directed Plays; Chicago
- 2018-19 The Showcase of Student-Written and -Directed Plays; Fancy Me Mad (adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe works)
- 2017-18 The Showcase of Student-Written and -Directed Plays; Little Shop of Horrors
- 2016-17 The Showcase of Student-Written and -Directed Plays; 1984
- 2015-16 The Showcase of Student-Written and -Directed Plays; Avenue Q
- 2014-15 The Showcase of Student-Written and -Directed Plays; Dead Man’s Cell Phone
- 2013-14 The Showcase of Student-Written and -Directed Plays; Picasso at the Lapin Agile
- 2012-13 The Showcase of Student-Written and -Directed Plays; Antigone Now
High School students also have the opportunity to take a Playwriting class for credit (¼ credit per year, or a full credit if they take it all four years) during Projects. This class was offered through a partnership with Actors Theatre of Louisville for many years, and now is being offered by current TLC Academic Support Specialist Jason Cooper. Jason is also a former high school English teacher, and has been involved in theater administration and acting throughout his career. He has a BFA in Theater, as well as an MA in creative and professional writing, and has taught the playwriting course under the auspices of Actors Theater previously. Students in the Playwriting class submit their work for production in The Showcase of Student-Written and -Directed Plays, so students in this class often get to see their work produced. They are also encouraged to submit their work to the Actors Theatre New Voices Playwriting Competition. We have had student work selected for production in that festival, as well as a number of students receiving honorable mentions.
The Improv troupe, originally called Currently Out of Order, was founded in 2012 and practiced and performed regularly in the city and at the High School. It went on hiatus for a while, but was re-introduced in 2022, under Jason Cooper’s leadership. Students will work together to create the structure of their performances, incorporating short- and long-form improv with dynamic comedy exercises. The Troupe plans to perform at the School beginning during the 2022-23 school year.
English Speaking Union’s Shakespeare Competition
Students have the opportunity to participate in the annual English Speaking Union’s Shakespeare Competition. Interested students memorize a monologue and compete at the school level, with one winner moving on to the regional level with a chance to advance to state and national competition. This competition is led by the high school English department.
Beginning in 2012, Reed Gabhart began a new tradition: a biennial summer Alumni production, which allows anyone who attended through 8th grade on our Goshen Campus or anyone who is a current student in our high school or alum of the School to participate. These productions have been staged in Baron’s Theater in Whisky Row Lofts in Downtown Louisville. The following are the Alumni Productions to date:
- 2022: The Sunshine Boys
- (Gap due to the pandemic)
- 2018: Getting Out
- 2016: The Breakfast Club
- 2014: Almost, Maine
- 2012: Godspell
15th Annual National Youth Arts Awards and Nominations 2019-20*
*Note that 2019-20 is the last year that these awards were offered; the program has been on hiatus since the pandemic began. Previous years winners and nominations are below!
- Lead Performance in a Musical: Amelia Dimas as Roxie Hart in Chicago
- Lead Performance in a Musical: Caroline Frederick as Velma Kelly in Chicago
- Lead Performance (Junior Division): Lachlan Apple as Stage Manager in Our Town
- Lead Performance (Junior Division): Abby Hairgrove as Emily Webb in Our Town
- Supporting Performance in a Musical: Teagan Morrison as Matron “Mama” Morton in Chicago
- Supporting Performance (Junior Division): Charley Ignatow as Mrs. Gibbs in Our Town
- Featured Performance (Junior Division): Zara Farber as Mrs. Soames in Our Town
- Featured Performance (Junior Division): Kennedy Julian as Rebecca Gibbs in Our Town
- Ensemble (Junior Division): Our Town
- Lead Performance in a Musical: Grace Malone as Roxie Hart in Chicago
- Lead Performance (Junior Division): Ben Rutherford as George Gibbs in Our Town
- Lead Performance (Junior Division): Molly Waggener as Emily Webb in Our Town
- Supporting Performance in a Musical: Eston McLeroy as Billy Flynn in Chicago
- Supporting Performance (Junior Division): Mia Barbercheck as Mrs. Webb in Our Town
- Featured Performance (Junior Division): Zoe Petiprin as Mrs. Soames in Our Town
- Featured Performance (Junior Division): Jude Sleadd as Simon Stimson in Our Town
- Featured Performance (Junior Division): Maya Wright as Rebecca Gibbs in Our Town
- Ensemble: Chicago
- Direction: Reed Gabhart for Our Town
- Direction: Michelle Salerno for Chicago
The High School offers several ensembles for instrumentalists and singers.
In the Music Performance and Advanced Music Performance course, students form large and small ensembles, learn aspects of music history and theory, and become familiar with various styles of music. A particular emphasis is given to American music, such as jazz, blues, and rock.
The High School also offers a Jazz Ensemble, open to all instrumentalists and vocalists and held during a Project period so that it is accessible to all students. Depending on the size of the group, there may also be smaller ensembles formed within the group. Over the last several years, this ensemble has performed at regional jazz festivals and worked with guest artists. Students also have the option to audition for the KMEA All-State Jazz band, as well as regional honors ensembles.
A Vocal Ensemble group meets after school and focuses on contemporary music. Recent performances were inspired by such artists as Pentatonix and Ben Folds. These students also have the opportunity to audition for regional and national honor choirs.
For students interested in both music and drama, the High School presents a musical production semi-annually. Recent productions include Little Shop of Horrors and Avenue Q (school edition).
The Middle School music curriculum includes studies of choral music, songwriting, music history and theory, and instrumental performance. Students gain experience with a variety of instruments, with a particular emphasis on ukulele. Interested students have the opportunity to audition for state, regional, and national honor choirs, as well as regional instrumental honors ensembles.
The Middle School Jazz Band is open to all Middle School students and meets after school. The Jazz Band emphasizes performance of American jazz standards and encourages students to experiment with improvisation. Like its High School counterpart, over the last several years, this group has performed at regional jazz festivals and worked with guest artists.
For students interested in both music and drama, the Middle School presents a musical production semi-annually. Recent productions include The Sound of Music and Anything Goes.
Lower School students participate in various musical activities designed to teach music theory, history, and performance. Students gain experience in choral singing and on a variety of instruments such as recorder, drums, and melodic percussion, with a particular emphasis on Orff percussion instruments.
The Lower School Choir, which consists of interested students, focuses on more challenging choral repertoire.
Preschoolers experience music and movement through singing, dancing, and musical games. Students experiment with musical instruments and learn both new and classic children’s songs.