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Happy to announce that Summer 2015 will be spent in the beautiful Berkshires at Shakespeare & Company working on Red Velvet!

Saranac Lake students present ‘Once Upon a Mattress’

March 14, 2013

By JESSICA COLLIER - Staff Writer ( Daily Enterprise

SARANAC LAKE - This week's production of the musical "Once Upon a Mattress" should have a little something for everyone.

The show, one of the most performed musicals in high schools and community theaters across the country, tells the Hans Christian Andersen story of "The Princess and the Pea." The queen wants to make sure that the woman set to marry her son is a princess, so she devises a plan to put some peas under a huge stack of mattresses. If the girl feels the pesa, that means she is sensitive enough to be a princess.

Musical Director Drew Benware said it appeals to a wide age range with fun music, comedy and a story that everyone will get into.

"The songs are infectious, not only to the students but to the audience," Benware told the Enterprise during a break in a recent rehearsal. "To have them humming and whistling and singing through the halls since January has helped solidify things."

This year, Benware and Artistic Director Matt Sorensen tried something new with their rehearsal process. They spent about two weeks at the beginning of the process, as soon as students got back from winter break in January, focusing entirely on learning the music. The show features several larger choral numbers, and with the cast of more than 50 actors, the voices fill the auditorium on numbers like the four-part madrigal a capella number that opens the second act.

"We really had music at the core of this process, and it's been what has propelled everything from the acting to the dancing to the set design in this piece," Benware said. "It's truly a musical in that the focus is on the music."

He said they've gotten nothing but positive feedback on the rehearsal process.

Senior Jessica Kemp, who plays the lead character Winnifred, who's princess status is being challenged, said she liked learning the music first. Once the songs became second nature, she could focus entirely on the blocking.

"It was different," Kemp said. "I had never really done that before."

The sets and costumes are meant to transport the audience into an exaggerated, cartoon-y fantasy land, with a Medievalstyle mural as the backdrop and colorful costumes that mixes in modern elements for comedic effect.

Benware calls the show a team effort, with a diverse group of characters driving the story.

Kemp said she's had a good time creating the character, who she said is kind of crazy and "just lays it all out."

"There's a lot of room to just kind of be crazy and let go," Kemp said.

Winnifred wants a happy ending, but she doesn't quite know how to get it, Kemp said.

Senior Sean Orman plays Prince Dauntless the Drab, Winnifred's betrothed. Orman calls his character the "epitome of a mama's boy." He's used to being pushed around by his controlling mother, which is why he clings to Winnifred, another strong female character.

"It's just a fun character to play," Orman said. "I can be as goofy as I want."

One of his favorite parts is the scene where his mute father is trying to explain "the birds and the bees" to him through charades, and Orman has to translate.

Orman said that working with Benware and Sorensen, as well as choreographers Katy Van Anden and Gabby Patnode, has been fun. He and Kemp have been working with Sorensen on different productions since they were children, and they always work well with him, Orman said.

"It's always a really good group of people to work with," he said.

Benware said that with each of the Tri-Lakes schools performing their musicals on different weekends this year, the students are trying to go see both Tupper Lake and Lake Placid's shows as well.

"We're all working for the same things," Benware said. "We're going to support each other through these processes."

The show opens Thursday and runs Friday and Saturday as well, with each production at 7:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium.


Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or

© Copyright 2014 Adirondack Daily Enterprise. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

in the christmas spirit

January 21, 2013

Adirondack Daily Enterprise

The Saranac Lake High School band and chorus concert was held on Dec. 21. Both the regular band and chorus performed, as well as the jazz band and the men's and women's ensembles. Jessica Kemp sings "Santa Baby" with the jazz band.

© Copyright 2014 Adirondack Daily Enterprise. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Saranac Lake music students lauded

December 13, 2012

By CHRIS KNIGHT - Senior Staff Writer ( Daily Enterprise

SARANAC LAKE - The Saranac Lake High School music program is having a banner year.

In recent weeks, students in the school's band and choral programs have earned recognition at home, across the North Country and throughout the state. One choral student, soprano Jessica Kemp, recently became only the third Saranac Lake student ever to be selected to the National Association for Music Education's All-Eastern festival, to be held this spring in Connecticut.

The teachers who run the program credit their students for working hard to achieve this level of success and recognition. They also want the community to know how successful the music program is, given the difficult fiscal climate the Saranac Lake Central School District is mired in.

"My new message is, we can in no way assume this quality of music education just happens," said Drew Benware, the high school's choral director. "It is hard work on a daily basis with a fully staffed department. If the public expects, and I think they do, the same level of programming and the same level of community involvement, we can't keep what we're doing a secret."

Fifty-three students from the music program's choral, jazz band and concert band were accepted this year to the New York School Music Association's Zone 6 area all-state festival, which took place in mid-November at Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School. Zone 6 basically includes high schools in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. The students were picked for the area all-state festival based on performances in front of a neutral adjudication panel and the difficulty of the music they selected to perform.

"We had a really good showing and strong representation at area all-state, which is good," Benware said. "Our students worked extremely hard. It's gratifying for me and for them to work a long time on something and get a great result."

Kemp, a senior, was selected to participate in the mixed chorus at the annual conference all-state music festival, which features students from across New York. It took place from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 at the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music.

Benware said Kemp got into that competition through her solo performance of a difficult piece by Handel titled "Oh, Had I Jubal's Lyre."

"She did a Level 6, which is the highest level of difficulty, and got a perfect score," Benware said. "Even that does not guarantee you a spot in all-state, especially for a soprano. For example, we had a flute player, Julia Murray, who got a 100 on a Level 6 and she was wait-listed. She was an alternate."

Kemp then used the same solo to apply for All-Eastern honors through the National Association for Music Education, pitting her against students from Washington, D.C. to Maine. She got in.

"She's in the women's chorus," Benware said. "She'll learn the music ahead of time and then travel to Hartford, Connecticut, for a four-day rehearsal at the end of spring break, leading up to a performance."

Benware said Kemp is incredibly driven.

"She works to get it right," he said. "I know in particular she took outside lessons because she wanted to nail that solo. She has passion for the music. She sets her goals high and she meets them."

In addition to recognition from beyond Saranac Lake, students in the high school music program got some attention at home earlier this week. Village Mayor Clyde Rabideau and the Saranac Lake village board issued proclamations and commendations to Benware, high school instrumental music teacher Keith Kogut and their students at Monday night's board meeting. A group of choral students performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the high school alma mater for village officials and an audience in the Harrietstown Town Hall auditorium.

"This community is so acceptive and supportive of the arts, whether we're talking about band, instrumental music, drama or the visual arts," Kogut said in accepting a plaque from Rabideau. "It means so much to myself, my colleagues and our students to be part of a community that supports our efforts musically and artistically."

Benware and Kogut are working to cultivate even more support from the community, something Benware said will be essential as the school district braces for another round of cuts in next year's budget. Benware noted that Superintendent Gerald Goldman recently compared the district's budget situation to the sinking of the Titanic.

"Mr. Goldman has said now is the time to start making your voice heard," Benware said. "If you value what we do here, sing it out loud and proud now, not when positions have been cut and you're wondering why it isn't the same program it used to be. It can't be if we trim. We've got to start talking. We've got to say, as community, what we value."

The school's music program has been getting into the community quite a bit lately. On Friday, choral students sang and the village's annual Christmas tree lighting in Berkeley Green. The following night, the vocal ensembles performed to a packed house at Saranac Village at Will Rogers. On Sunday, students were also involved in the annual Messiah Community Sing. This week, students performed at a Rotary Club luncheon and planned to carol at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake. On Dec. 31, they'll perform at First Night Saranac Lake.

"This group is in demand," Benware said. "It's a balance between how much can I preserve the kids time and their own personal schedules. In order to have the support of the community, we've got to be in the community, and that's a tight rope."

The music program's biggest upcoming event is Tuesday's annual winter concert at the high school. Benware said it will showcase all the performing groups in a variety of different styles. Admission is free.


Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or

© Copyright 2014 Adirondack Daily Enterprise. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

SL students discover how to succeed in a play

March 15, 2012

By JESSICA COLLIER - Staff Writer (, Adirondack Daily Enterprise 

SARANAC LAKE - Saranac Lake High School Music Theatre presents "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" this weekend.

The play, set in the 1950s, follows J. Pierrepont Finch's rise through the corporate world at World Wide Wickets. Starting as a window washer, he uses his "How to" book to to step over every obstacle until all that stands in the way is the boss himself, J.B. Biggley.

SLHS senior Sam Stringer plays Finch.

"He's a young man who's eager to rise to the top of the business world," Stringer said during a break from a dress rehearsal last weekend. "I love it. It's a great honor to be able to play this."

The show, which features a music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, originally opened on Broadway in 1961. A 50th anniversary Broadway revival last year featured Danielle Radcliffe and John Larroquette.

Stringer said his favorite song in the production is "I believe in you," a tune set in the washroom about how much his character loves himself. Stringer likes that it's an upbeat song he can use to show off his voice.


Fact Box

If you go ...

What: "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" play

Where: Saranac Lake High School auditorium

When: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

How much: $10 for adults; $5 for students


SLHS senior Dylan Van Cott plays Biggley. He said he appreciates the fact that it's a light-hearted, upbeat show while still having a strong message.

"I like it," Van Cott said. "It's really fun. A lot of energy."

Katie Romano, a senior, plays Mr. Biggley's secretary. She said her favorite song is the last one, "Brotherhood of Men," because she gets to scat.

"That's where I kind of let go," Romano said.

Matt Sorensen directs the production with music direction by Drew Benware, choreography by Katy Van Anden and costume design by Kent Streed.

The show runs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at the Saranac Lake High School auditorium.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. For reservations, call the SLHS music office at 897-1473 and leave a message for Drew Benware.

The cast consists of 32 Saranac Lake High School student performers. Van Cott, Stringer and Romano are joined by Lyle Baillargeon, Elena Beideck, Naomi Brandt, Autumn Buerkett, Griffeon Chuba, Peter Curtis, Caroline Dodd, Ivy Huber, Joe Hull, Jessica Kemp, Leah Kleist, Autumn LeFebvre, Nick Mann, Sam Martin, Jennifer McGuoirk, Emma Miller, Ellen Miner, Evan Olsen, Garth Olsen, Sean Orman, Jacquie Parker, Haakon Pederson, Sadie Posdzich, Nina Scheuer, Summer Schneider, Eydon Thomashow, Bachana Tsiklauri, Sasha Van Cott and Robyn Williamson.

For more information about the show, email

© Copyright 2014 Adirondack Daily Enterprise. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Kemp awarded Jessie Snyder Children's Theatre Award

November 16, 2014

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By RICHARD GONYEA, Adirondack Daily Enterprise

LAKE PLACID - During the opening of Friday's "The Hobbit" at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, Jessica Deeb awarded the Jessie Snyder Children's Theatre Award to Jessica Kemp of Saranac Lake.

In August 2003, Snyder lost her battle with bipolar disease. Each year, Rising Star Productions honors her with an award to the member of the cast or crew of the current production who best exemplifies Snyder's love of the theater.

Former winners of this award are 2003: Michael Bullard, 2004: Dan Dohman, 2005: Meadow Hackett, 2006: Katie Trudeau, 2007: Emily Seft, 2008: Joey Izzo, 2009: Lucky Cerruti and 2010: Chloe Peer. 

Kemp, this year's winner, is the stage manager for "The Hobbit."

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