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Drama High

Cover of Drama High

Drama High

The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Mag ic of Theater
Soon to be a television series titled "Rise," starring Josh Radnor, Auli'i Cravalho, and Rosie Perez —the incredible and true story of an extraordinary drama teacher who has changed the lives of thousands of students and inspired a town.
Why would the multimillionaire producer of Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, and Miss Saigon take his limo from Manhattan to the struggling former steel town of Levittown, Pennsylvania, to see a high school production of Les Misérables?
To see the show performed by the astoundingly successful theater company at Harry S Truman High School, run by its legendary director, Lou Volpe. Broadway turns to Truman High when trying out controversial shows such as Rent and Spring Awakening before they move on to high school theater programs across the nation. Volpe's students from this blue-collar town go on to become Emmy-winning producers, entertainment executives, newscasters, and community-theater founders.
Michael Sokolove, a Levittown native and former student of Volpe's, chronicles the drama director's last school years and follows a group of student actors as they work through riveting dramas both on and off the stage. This is a story of an economically depressed but proud town finding hope in a gifted teacher and the magic of theater.
Soon to be a television series titled "Rise," starring Josh Radnor, Auli'i Cravalho, and Rosie Perez —the incredible and true story of an extraordinary drama teacher who has changed the lives of thousands of students and inspired a town.
Why would the multimillionaire producer of Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, and Miss Saigon take his limo from Manhattan to the struggling former steel town of Levittown, Pennsylvania, to see a high school production of Les Misérables?
To see the show performed by the astoundingly successful theater company at Harry S Truman High School, run by its legendary director, Lou Volpe. Broadway turns to Truman High when trying out controversial shows such as Rent and Spring Awakening before they move on to high school theater programs across the nation. Volpe's students from this blue-collar town go on to become Emmy-winning producers, entertainment executives, newscasters, and community-theater founders.
Michael Sokolove, a Levittown native and former student of Volpe's, chronicles the drama director's last school years and follows a group of student actors as they work through riveting dramas both on and off the stage. This is a story of an economically depressed but proud town finding hope in a gifted teacher and the magic of theater.
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  • Kirkus

    July 15, 2013
    A journalist's account of the final years in a drama teacher's storied career at a high school in Levittown, Pa., a former mill city fallen on hard times. Harry S. Truman High was "at best, second rate," writes New York Times Magazine contributor Sokolove (Warrior Girls: Protecting Our Daughters Against the Injury Epidemic in Women's Sports, 2008, etc.). But it was also the home of an acclaimed drama program that drew attention from the likes of Cameron Mackintosh, producer of such smash hits as Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon. The man behind the program, Lou Volpe, was the main reason for its amazing success. Sokolove follows his former teacher and two groups of students Volpe worked with at Truman High between 2010 and 2012. Demanding, complex and sensitive, Volpe, who was also Sokolove's high school English teacher, taught by instinct rather than formula. The main lesson he passed on to his students was that dramatic art was not just a way of expressing feelings, but also of "fully embracing, and understanding, life." Volpe never shied away from controversial subject matter, nor did he balk at having his students perform plays that had only been done by professional theater companies. In the two years the book covers, this gifted teacher brought two sexually explosive plays, Good Boys and True and Spring Awakening, to the Truman stage. Volpe showed his students, who ranged from drama "regulars" to athletes to talented unknowns, how to harness the discomfort that often characterized their lives and channel it into their art. The results were astonishing by most measures but ordinary by the Truman drama program's standards. Good Boys earned the class a berth at a prestigious high school theater festival, and Volpe's version of Spring Awakening received the nod from its Broadway producers to be performed at other high schools. A memorable, uplifting story about a man who helped students create meaning, hope and magic for themselves and their beleaguered community.

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    September 15, 2013

    The auditorium of Harry S Truman High School in Levittown, PA, might seem an unlikely venue for a production that caught the eye of a Broadway producer like Sir Cameron Mackintosh, but that's exactly what happened when the school's theater teacher, Lou Volpe, directed its production of Les Miserables. The theater program at Truman has been so successful that when Music Theatre International, which licenses Broadway productions, looks for a school to pilot a high school version of a play, it often turns to the stage where the first high school versions of Rent and Spring Awakening were also performed. Sokolove (contributing writer, New York Times Magazine; The Ticket Out; Hustle; Warrior Girls) grew up in Levittown and is a former student of Volpe's, and that experience informs his narrative. He chronicles the on- and off-stage lives of Volpe (who just retired after 44 years at Truman) and his students and writes movingly of the challenges they faced. VERDICT You don't have to be a "Gleek" to enjoy this compelling account of the power of theater. [See Prepub Alert, 4/1/13.]--Carolyn M. Mulac, Chicago

    Copyright 2013 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Drama High
Drama High
The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Mag ic of Theater
Michael Sokolove
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