For the past five decades, Byram Hills Theater Program has been churning out an impressive array of students who have eventually pursued successful careers in movies, television and stage productions.
Alumni of the program were honored this past March and were invited to partake in an unveiling ceremony of a new Theater Honors Wall displayed outside the high school’s theater.
The ceremony took place before the current theater group’s matinee production of Les Misérables which several of the honorees attended.
Faculty and current members of the theater group recognized 26 honorees–24 alumni plus two former directors of the program and included actor Eddie Cahill of the shows CSI: NY and Friends; Bryce Dallas Howard, one of the leads in the 2015 blockbuster Jurassic World; and David Harbour, who played Police Chief Jim Hopper in the Netflix hit Stranger Things.
They also include producers, lighting designers, composers, arts educators and people involved in regional theater across the U.S. Each year the wall will have additional alumni added to it.
Many of the alumni credit the strong theater program with helping propel them towards a career in the arts. Grant Sturiale (Class of 1975) who attended the ceremony and is now a Broadway conductor and composer reminisced about how he participated in Byram Hills productions every year while in high school under the direction of theater teacher Gene Bissell. Commented Sturiale: “Bissell was a life force in the theater. He directed shows like we were opening at the Winter Garden Theater on Broadway. It imbued on all of us this tremendous sense of responsibility. He was a dynamic man and teacher.”
Another alumni Christopher Cummings (Class of 1995) who is now an exhibit designer for museums, visitor centers and aquariums loved working under the tutelage of director Joy Varley. “Byram Hills had such strong theater productions and all the shows were top-notch. That feeling of the show must go on and the stress and anticipation of everyone working together left an impression on me.”
Stellar theater productions continue to live on at Byram Hills. The latest show, Les Misérables, under the direction of John Lopez, received thunderous applause and a nightly standing ovation by the audience including, the alumni honorees in attendance.
Inside Press Editor Grace Bennett, who attended opening night, stated effusively, “I’ve seen Les Misérables on Brodaway, and believe it or not, I found this production every bit as enjoyable. Kudos to all the kids, Mr. Lopez and all involved in bringing Les Misérables to Byram Hills.”
She added that “the high caliber show showcases incredible high school acting and singing talent that is so obviously being nurtured at Byram Hills. It was a thoroughly professional, impressive and ultimately, moving evening of theater! I think there were not too many dry eyes. Also, the joy at the cast party immediately following the production was palpable!”
Charlie Winston, a senior who played lead Jean Valjean and who plans to study acting in college noted that “one day he hopes to be on the honor wall like the alumni.” With a little luck and successes like this one, that just might happen.