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Variety Show Allows Students and Teacher to Shine on Stage

Eighth+grader+Madi+McVey+%28center%29+leads+Mrs.+Rudner%27s+dance+classes+in+their+%22Circus%22+number+in+Act+II.
Eighth grader Madi McVey (center) leads Mrs. Rudner's dance classes in their

Eighth grader Madi McVey (center) leads Mrs. Rudner's dance classes in their "Circus" number in Act II.

Mr. Crisafi

Mr. Crisafi

Eighth grader Madi McVey (center) leads Mrs. Rudner's dance classes in their "Circus" number in Act II.

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One may never know the level of artistic talent bundled up within the collective TBS student body unless one takes in the School’s annual Variety Show. Sure, there are concerts and plays and musicals and dance showcases throughout the year, but the Variety Show enables students from all three divisions to share the stage for a day, and the results are breathtaking.

This year, in its twenty-second installment, the Variety Show theme was Flash Forward, and it entailed lots of futuristic skits about life-like robots and alternate universes from the drama club, and space-age dance acts like “Rocket Man” and a Star Wars medley featuring Ms. Featherston and TBS moms.

Upper School Performing Arts Department Chair Mrs. Sara Salivar has been the coordinator of the Variety Show for the past twenty two years, and feels the signature event allows the students in each division an opportunity to put their talents on display. “ I want to give students the ability to perform together in a professional environment and showcase all aspects of the fine arts together in one show,” she said.

The Variety show allows students in grades two to 12 and beyond (alumni are also invited encouraged to participate) from all different disciplines to perform – from singing to playing music to acting.

Mr. Crisafi
Mrs. Rudner performs her pas de deux to open the 22nd Annual Variety Show.

One of the biggest supporters of the Variety Show is middle school dance instructor Mrs. Rachel Rudner. She traditionally choreographs the lower/middle school musical medley each year as well as dances from her middle school dance classes, dance team, and dance ensemble. “I just love how [the Variety Show is] everybody coming together. It’s rare lately that we all get to see each other every day, and the week [leading up to the show] is so special because we get to see the high schoolers every day at rehearsal,” said Rudner. “We have buddy systems on the dance team, and it is nice for the middle schoolers to meet their mentors,” she said.

Rudner herself performed in the show this year, dancing a pas de deux with upper school dance assistant Mr. Corey Heins, the first time she has danced in the show in a couple of years Rudner was filling in for another dancer who had to bow out, and it was difficult for Rudner, a mother of two, to find time to practice for her performance because she was so busy making sure that her students’ numbers were going to run smoothly.  “I learned the dance only a week before the performance, with the tech rehearsal being only my second time performing the number.  Most students didn’t even know [I was in the show] until I showed up in costume.”   

Most of the acts, however, take months of practice to perfect. “[It’s] a lot [of work],” said Rudner. “We start with second  through eighth-grade Variety Show practices all the way back in September, and dance classes have been working on [their routines] since October. [We spend] about once a week switching to rehearsal every day specifically for the show.”

Despite all of the practice that the dance students put in, nerves are something that never fade.  Even Rudner was nervous during her performance “Oh, I was definitely nervous during the performance,” she said. “Whether it is your first or hundredth time, you always feel nervous.”   

However, nothing matches the joy and thrill of performing on stage. “I really enjoy dancing and felt that it was a really cool experience to perform in front of a crowd,” said eighth grader Nicole Kleinfeld, a member of Rudner’s G period dance class who performed in the Variety Show’s “Rocket Man” and “Circus” numbers.  “It was very fun because it was a nice vibe with everyone dancing and getting ready [together] and stuff,” added eighth grader Antonio Maciel, a member of Rudner’s E period dance class who was in the same two acts with Kleinfeld.“I liked the “Circus” dance more because it was more hip hop,” said Maciel.

Mr. Crisafi
Ms. Featherston takes center stage as an alien creature during the show’s “Star Wars Medley.”

While Rudner and her students enjoyed performing, she wasn’t the only middle school faculty member up on the stage. Eighth-grade science teacher Ms. Sara Featherston took on the role of a blue-faced alien in the Variety Show during the “Star Wars Medley,” a crowd favorite. Featherston, making her second consecutive appearance in the show, danced to music taken from and inspired by the Star Wars saga. “I was never a dancer – that is something that is a newfound love of mine,” said Featherston. “I was always an athlete growing up.  o no, I do not necessarily need to showcase my dancing skills or lack thereof, but it was just for fun.”

Aside from her love of dancing, Featherston sees the Variety Show as a way to show off her school spirit. “I love the Benjamin school so much, and I like to be apart of my community, as well as get to know my students outside of the classroom,” she said.

Former middle school students who have brought their talents to the Upper School performed in abundance, too. Alexa McAvoy ’18, a member of the Upper School’s chorus and theater groups, was featured in several acts, one of which was “The Cup Song.” It featured a video of her and some other chorus members flawlessly singing while keeping the beat with plastic cups, and also combined a live skit where the students dressed up as elderly versions of themselves reminiscing about their high school days.  

Mr. Crisafi
Alexa McAvoy ’18 (left) and Kris Armstrong ’18 play older versions of themselves as they introduce their “Cup Song” video.

“My favorite number to perform was ‘The Cup Song’ because we got to integrate improvisational humor into our characters: old people at our 65th high school reunion,” said McAvoy.  “We got a lot of laughs, and I also enjoyed our final video that was shown during the performance.”

McAvoy admitted there was a lot of intense practice  that went into perfecting the Variety Show. “Rehearsals started immediately after our school play, and drama club rehearsals were put on Wednesday from 6:00 to 8:00 [p.m.],” she said. “We put in many hours of hard work to perfect the major numbers by focusing mainly on singing and dancing.”

The Variety Show truly are performances that can be considered a must see, Proving  that Benjamin is not just a college preparatory school focused on academics, but a place where the arts flourish. What makes the Variety Show so special is that it’s all three divisions – lower, middle, and upper – for two shows, one day only, once a year, on one stage. However, it’s a whole lot of talent. “What impresses me the most about the Variety Show is the quality of performance for our independent day school,” said Head of Middle School Mr. Charles Hagy elaborates. “It is simply amazing. It blows anyone who is not associated with the Benjamin community out of the water.”

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Variety Show Allows Students and Teacher to Shine on Stage