Local Group, Arts Bubble 19464, Readies August Show
LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – Nearly 40 students from Pottstown and Pottsgrove high schools, led by local theater experts, have worked to stage a production of the musical “Starmites High School Edition” (at top and above) scheduled for Aug. 4, 5, and 6 (2022; Thursday through Saturday) at 7 p.m. – as well as Aug. 6 at 3 p.m. – in Pottsgrove High School on Kauffman Road.
The show has been in development for several weeks, under the guidance of an organization called Arts Bubble 19464. In partnership with the non-profit Tri-County Community Network, Arts Bubble says it intends to help participants “build collaborative creative opportunities for their fellow students locally by doing ‘one impossible thing a day.'”
Described as a “vibrant teen musical,” the show revolves around a shy high school student, Eleanor Fairchild. When interacting with her classmates becomes too daunting, she escapes into a fantasy world involving science fiction characters in her comic book collection. Her comic book heroes, The Starmites, are the last remaining band of humans in their world, and have sworn themselves to be the guardians of Innerspace.
Eleanor soon meets Diva and her banshees, a cannibalistic tribe of wild women who are sworn enemies of the evil villain Shakgraa. Shakgraa is intent on enslaving the people of Innerspace with his evil weapon, the Cruelty. Eleanor learns it has been ordained that she defeat Shakgraa, who next plans to enslave the Earth. Only she can save both worlds! Will she do it?
Starmites teaches lessons of empowerment for youth, the value to disparate groups in working together to create change, and how one person can be a valuable part of creating community.
Behind ‘The Arts Bubble 19464’
First presented during 2021 at the Centre Theatre in Norristown, The Arts Bubble was envisioned as a one-and-done temporary performing group. It offered a safe place for students to return to the theatre while empowering them to instigate powerful changes in their communities, advocates say. The group presented a production of Chicago High School Edition.
Despite its location, the production attracted a large number of Pottstown students. Many of them had worked with The Arts Bubble’s founder, Aileen Lynch-McCulloch, before the pandemic. Others were drawn by its mission to reach all students regardless of income, and offer lessons to empower youth leadership. It served as a bridge for learning to again be part of a larger community outside school.
That original group of 18 actors became close friends and continued to support each other throughout the school year as their schools produced shows. They stayed in touch and attended each others’ productions. The students asked to work together again, and The Arts Bubble presented a second production in November 2021. It staged the international theatre project All Together Now with all Zoom rehearsals, and an in-person performance with a masked audience.
The close bond of this new community of performers inspired Pottsgrove area student Nicole Lockey to contact Lynch-McCulloch and ask if she would float the next production in Pottstown as a free summer theatre opportunity for students in and around the 19464 zip code.
“Participating in local theater … costs a teenager up to $500 a show,” Lockey explained. “The cost is financially limiting for many in the area. We wanted to provide an opportunity for all area teens to work together on a live theatre performance during the summer of 2022, regardless of the student’s financial ability to do so.”
Lockey organized Pottsgrove School District students, and reached out to Christian Toland of Pottstown High School to see if students there would help. In May, Lynch-McCulloch agreed to transfer the bubble to Pottstown, and The Arts Bubble 19464 was formed with the assistance of the Tri-County Community Network operating as its 501c3 umbrella.
Within two weeks of the agreement students were gathering for acting workshops, and within the month the show was in rehearsal.
“Although we have a long way to go, there have been several people supporting our cause,” Toland added. The network “offered us rehearsals space and provided our umbrella organization giving us a 501c3 status.
“Pottsgrove High,” he continued, “let us use their space for not only rehearsal but for our four show dates. Pottstown High’s Education Foundation matched that donation with funding. We have a lot of individuals and businesses who have donated money to help pay for all of the fees associated with doing a show.”
Lynch-McCulloch, the show’s producing director, and Scott Byerly, music and technical director, both are donating their time until funding can be found to support salaries. The group has created a detailed project proposal to boost community support. It outlines its history, accomplishments to date, goals, and needs; find it here.
Photos provided to The Post