SHS educator marks 51st production

STEUBENVILLE – This month the city high school Thespians will be celebrating their 20th anniversary and 51st high school theater production with the staging of “Sweeney Todd: the Demon of Fleet Street,” set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday in the high school auditorium.

It also marks the 20th anniversary of Scott Wolodkin, choir director and theater adviser, re-imagining what high school theater could be.

“In the spring of 1994, a group of very dedicated students and teachers began organizing the first musical to be presented in the auditorium in more than 15 years,” said Wolodkin. “The music department, art department and theater department worked to present ‘The Music Man,’ which was the precursor to what we know now as the Steubenville High School Drama Club. From that simple seed sprouted a new interest in theater at the high school.”

In the fall of 1995, Wolodkin founded a troupe of the International Thespian Society, which honors excellence in theater and provides a home for avid actors and technicians to hone their dramatic and technical skills. The first troupe began with a small group of eager and dedicated students and has now grown into this year’s largest thespian troupe in the 20-year history with a roster of 48 students.

It wasn’t surprising Wolodkin would lead such a change, as he attended Wheeling Park High School during the glory days of theater in Wheeling, where theater and other arts were a community institution and tradition.

Wolodkin said he then attended and graduated from West Liberty University with a degree in music education. Wolodkin said he was very active in the theater as a student in Wheeling, and that enthusiasm for the art came with him when he was hired by Steubenville High School as choir director.

“I began (at Steubenville) directly after graduating from WLU in the fall of 1991,” said Wolodkin.

“I was an active participant in Wheeling-based theater. When the opportunity came to take over the drama club it just kind took off from there.”

Wolodkin said being involved in community theater in Wheeling, he already knew how to think big and didn’t shy away from theater that was adult in nature.

Wolodkin said most of the productions at the high school are specifically tailored for high school theater.

“This version (of ‘Sweeney Todd’) is for high schools to perform,” he said. “They are trying to make them accessible for the students.”

Wolodkin said one of his goals is to show students theater can be an opportunity for their future appreciation for the arts and even employment.

“Over the years I’ve had some students go into the theater in New York City,” he said. “This gives them some experience in the theater. Both my assistants, (vocal coach Abby Andresen and assistant director Julie Battistel) were high school students of mine that are now working here at the school.”

Productions over the years have included:

– 1993-94 – “The Music Man.”

– 1994-95 – “HARVEY,” “Magic Theater.”

– 1995-96 – “Anything Goes.”

– 1996-97 – “Cinderella,” “Great High School Whodunit.”

– 1997-98 – “Guys and Dolls,” “Li’l Abner.”

– 1998-99 – “Wedding Day Disaster,” “South Pacific,” “Wizard of Oz.”

– 1999-00 – “Charley’s Aunt,” “Crazy for You.”

– 2000-01 – “The Case of the Ms. and the Showbiz Wiz,” “Bye Bye Birdie.”

– 2001-02 – “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” “Hello Dolly,” “Barnum.”

– 2002-03 – “Death of a Doornale,” “42nd Street,” “Footloose.”

– 2003-04 – “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” “Kiss Me Kate,” “Seussical.”

– 2004-05 – “Le Ville Cabaret – 10th Anniversary,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Copacabana.”

– 2005-06 – “Anything Goes,” “Damn Yankees,” “Fiddler on the Roof.”

– 2006-07 – “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “The Music Man,” “Les Miserables.”

– 2007-08 – “Into the Woods,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

– 2008-09 – “Cabaret 2 – Broadway on North 4th Street,” “Curtains,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”

-2009-10 – “Godspell,” “Titanic,” “Seussical.”

– 2010-11 – “Phantom of the Opera.”

– 2011-12 – “White Christmas,” “Cinderella-Enchanted Edition,” “Les Miserables.”

– 2012-13 – “Murder Mystery,” “Cats,” “Forever Plaid,” “Once Upon a Mattress.”

– 2013-14 – “A Christmas Carol,” “Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”