A group like no other: ISD friends of the arts
What makes a school great?
World class instructors? Check.
Diverse and meaningful curriculum? Check.
Enthusiastic students? Check.
A strong athletic and after school programme? Check.
How about dedicated and supportive parent volunteers? CHECK!
The ISD Friends of the Arts (FOA) began over 25 years ago to support the rich and diverse theatre curriculum at the school. What started as support for school theatre class productions has transformed into professional-grade set construction, prop design, costume creation and alteration, and theatre-quality makeup. All of these activities are supplemented with volunteer-led programme creation, photography, and day-of-show support for the cast and crew.
This group of volunteers is not the norm within international schools, or any school for that matter. Samantha Ward and Kate Olson, the senior school drama teachers, are very appreciative of the help provided by the FOA.
Samantha notes how in previous schools, it was more of a one woman show, helping with all aspects of production. In fact, her closet was the costume department for many productions prior to moving to ISD.
Kate believes that the drama department is the biggest department in the school; while there are only two instructors, when you include the enormous team of volunteers, they overshadow other departments.
Several members of the FOA have volunteered with the group for over eight years. It has become a place for creating not only sets, props, and costumes, but also friendships.
Tracey Woodrow is the longest-standing member. When she arrived to Germany, she was afraid she would be terribly lonely. She immediately jumped in as a volunteer with FOA, doing hair and make-up for a production of Oliver, and is now in her tenth year and leads the group. (Needless to say, she hasn’t been lonely!)
While the group has shared numerous successes, there have been some hiccups over the years. This is show business after all and the performances are live…
Members of the FOA, along with Samantha and Kate, have been forced to manage a few on-stage disasters. Tom Fitzpatrick was once stuck on stage during a scene change for The Wiz. He tried to signal to the team in the sound booth to keep the lights down, but without success. The lights went up and there was Tom, a part of the scenery.
During the show 39 Steps, actors were handcuffed together one by one. The only catch? The key to the handcuffs was left offstage and they couldn’t extract themselves from the melee without help from the wings.
FOA members recall The Wiz as the most involved project. The students helped create the giant papier maché masks, which now hang outside the administrative office in the senior school. And the most complex set? The one created for the show Bugsy.
Theatre at ISD is a social event, whether it’s in the FOA, on stage as part of an MYP production or in the audience supporting fellow students. There is always much excitement as the curtain is raised. Much of this is due to the wonderful work of the FOA.