The success of performing arts education programs, especially those in public high schools, should not necessarily be judged by the number of theater professionals they put into the community but rather by the enthusiasm for the craft that they engender in their students. Within that framework, the San Marcos High School Performing Arts Department is certainly effective: SMHS produces two main-stage shows a year, and alumni have formed the SMHS Alumni Foundation Theater Group (AFTG) to produce annual fundraising shows.
David Holmes, who taught in the SMHS Performing Arts Department for many years, has achieved a somewhat legendary status among devoted SMHS graduates; last year, Holmes retired amid fanfare, with students from as far back as the 1970s united to produce The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a play Holmes hadn’t been able to mount during his years in the department due to the show’s inappropriateness for a high school cast. The production was wildly successful.
This year, the AFTG, headed by foundation chair Kelli Martony-Doering, will mount the musical comedy Spamalot. Based on the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot features book and lyrics by Eric Idle and music by Idle and John du Prez. Nominated for 14 Tony awards (including best new musical) in 2005, Spamalot has been a popular comedic show for the past decade. This impish spoof of the Arthurian legend features Brian Wankum (class of ’87) as King Arthur, Jamie Chamberlin (’96) as the Lady of the Lake, Kurt Robbins (’95) as Sir Galahad, Natalie Padrick Rodrigue (’93) as Patsy, Matt Doohan (’11) as Sir Lancelot, Sean Jackson (’01) as Not Dead Fred, Willy Voigt (’92) as The Voice of God, and Holmes as Sir Not Appearing. Ainsley Gionfriddo (’99) will direct the show and play the role of the Mayor, and Martony-Doering (’01), aside from producing the show and running the Alumni Foundation, will play Brave Sir Robin.
These productions are certainly entertaining, and they serve as reunions for nostalgic former students. But the most important aspect of the foundation’s mission is its fundraising efforts. Rocky Horror was initially considered to be a one-and-done endeavor, but Martony-Doering was inspired to keep the venture alive. “A little voice inside my head told me, ‘This cannot die — the show must go on,’” she said. So she formed the Alumni Foundation Theater Group with the intent to produce annual shows to raise money for the current SMHS Performing Arts Department so the teachers and students can spend more time in the classroom and less time soliciting money. “The Performing Arts Department molded me into the woman I am today,” Martony-Doering said. “It gave me something to love and cherish. Now, my friends who are educators have shared with me the strain that constant fundraising has placed on them and their students. The SMHS Alumni Foundation Theater Group can make a difference for these students and teachers.”
If last year’s Rocky Horror Picture Show is any indication, Spamalot will offer a lively performance that embodies a passion for the arts — an enthusiasm that was piqued in high school and continues to flourish in adulthood.
Spamalot plays Friday-Saturday, June 26-27, at 7:30 p.m. at San Marcos High School, 4750 Hollister Avenue. For more information, see smhsalumnitheater.org. All proceeds directly benefit the San Marcos High School Performing Arts Department.