High school theater production puts spotlight on helping others

Staff Writer

METUCHEN — When members of the Metuchen High School (MHS) Footlighters present their spring production of “Gypsy,” they will do more than entertain.

The students will be donating some of the proceeds from closing night on March 22 to help Metuchen High School students who are affected by cancer.

Calling it “Curtain Call for Cancer,” the evening, which is being organized by a group of Girl Scouts from Metuchen, will feature a pasta dinner at 5 p.m. and a ticket to see “Gypsy” at 7:30 p.m. at a cost of $15. Salad, bread, beverages and desserts will round out the meal offerings.

“Gypsy,” an award-winning Broadway musical, includes the songs “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Together (Wherever We Go)” and “Let Me Entertain You,” to name a few. Performances will be held in the MHS auditorium at 400 Grove Ave., at 7:30 p.m. March 20-22.

Show tickets are $10 in advance at the high school, and $12 at the door.

All proceeds from the pasta dinner and a portion of the show tickets will benefit Metuchen families in the school community that are affected by cancer.

The MHS guidance department will disburse the funds.

“We will also offer other options for giving to the fund on all nights of the show,” said Jane Harmon, the show’s director. “We will have volunteers simply collecting contributions. So people will be able to contribute to the fund any night of the show, even if it’s just a dollar or two for candy, concessions or a donation. Every little bit will help.”

Dawn Valovcin, president of the Metuchen High School PTO, spearheaded the fundraising project,

“Principal Bruce Peragallo had come to me and said he’s very saddened by the fact that there are so many families being touched by cancer in our little community, and [asked] if I could brainstorm an idea where we could somehow help these families with all of the little extraneous things that add up,” Valovcin said. “That’s when I thought about a pasta dinner and spoke to Maria Morgan, who is the leader of the Girl Scout Troop [80743], and they embraced it. The Girl Scouts are taking the lead because they are doing it as a Journey [project] for Girl Scouts.”

The scouts are doing all the marketing, organizing and physical labor, including cooking and serving the pasta. Anisha Patel is the Girl Scout in charge of marketing for the fundraiser. She said the group must complete their Journey Project before they can complete their Gold Award, the highest level a Girl Scout can achieve.

Anisha and her fellow Girl Scouts — Casey Pearson, Alison Davideit, Alexa Gementgis, Carly Taylor, Jessica Stadtmauer, Brianna Morgan, Ari Davideit, Sara Karlovich, Erica Naranjo, Heather Jones and Kylea Onstad, all high school students who reside in Metuchen — took on different roles to help make the fundraiser a success.

“I really just want to help the families who might not be as fortunate or who might not be able to afford the best possible care for the person in their family who is affected by cancer, because it’s expensive and it’s unfortunate that they are affected by cancer and may not be able to receive the best treatment possible,” Anisha said. “I feel like this is something I should be doing. It’s for a good cause.”

Valovcin said another goal of the fundraiser is to get as much community involvement as possible.

“We have some teachers on board and some community involvement,” she said. “Some coaches will get their teams involved to promote it as much as possible. … The band parents are donating a lot of the paper goods, and the cooking classes at the high school will be making desserts. That’s what’s so great about being a small community like Metuchen — everybody chips in.”

In addition, donations of boxed pasta, paper goods, gift cards or money may be dropped off at the MHS office.

“The response has been overwhelming and wonderful so far,” Valovcin said. “Between people asking exactly what kind of pasta we want, to people saying, ‘Who do I make the check out to?’ ”

“One of the great things about Metuchen is that because we are a small community, we are able to really come together and help when individuals and families are in need,” said Harmon, an English teacher at Metuchen High School and an advisor for the Footlighters.

Peragallo said the effort is an important one, and that he gives Valovcin a lot of credit.

“It’s nice when you can call somebody up and say ‘I need to do this,’ and she ran with the idea,” he said. “It’s always nice also when you can encompass a lot of different groups, such as our Footlighters with their spring play and also the Girl Scouts, which has been a nice addition.

“Unfortunately I’ve had a number of students that have been struggling with cancer themselves and some in the family, and it has an impact. The families have different needs. We try to stress the importance of doing good for the community. This is certainly a project that feeds into that.”