Time and talent: Area students collaborate to help Newton school

NEWTON -- So what are 30 students from seven area high schools and five colleges doing with their summer? They’re producing a professional quality production of “Disney’s 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 School’s 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 don’t 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 that’s 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students have been forced to perform at other high schools or in community theatre because our performing arts space is outdated,” Denning said.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 O’Hare, executive producer of One Strong Voice productions, who had directed Boston College High School’s “West Side Story.” O’Hare 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 doesn’t have a usable auditorium, but it is also a great opportunity to participate in a high-level drama production,” he said.

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

According to Denning, the students have been so dedicated to raising funds for Trinity Catholic High School’s 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.