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Choreographing dances. Writing scripts. Designing costumes. Rehearsals six days a week. Putting on a SING! production is not easy work. But year after year, for the past 30, Edward R. Murrow H.S. has done just that, with the upcoming performances February 1 and 2. Beginning in New York City high schools in 1947, SING!, the production of two original musical comedies by the students, with, as is the case at Murrow, the senior and freshmen classes rivaling the junior and sophomore, has been a tradition at the progressive Midwood since 1978. While some schools like Sheepshead Bay High School have stopped putting on the productions due to budget cuts, others like Murrow, as well as Midwood, James Madison, Brooklyn Technical College and the Leon M. Goldstein School for the Sciences, located on the campus of Kingsborough Community College, have kept the tradition alive, putting on the wholly student-run performances year after year. Work on the show has been going on since last March at Murrow, and over the following months since, students have been kept on a tight schedule, writing scripts, managing budgets, learning music, choreographing dances, building sets, all to coming together for the final two productions, with Seniors and Freshmen performing against Juniors and Sophomores. For the past few weeks, students at Edward R. Murrow High School in the hundreds have been shuffling into school on weekends, coffee in hand, as well as staying well after the last bell rings, to put all the different pieces of the show together for this year’s SING! competition. “It’s very complicated, but it works every year,” said John Faciano, a faculty advisor for the 2008 SING! Over the years, Faciano, a 1982 graduate of Sheepshead Bay High School who did SING! himself while there, has seen the productions become more and more competitive. At a school with no sports teams, where money and many extracurricular activities are invested in art and theater programs, SING! is the school’s game, the shows themselves, much like plays and hand signals, kept secret from the opposing side – in this case, the senior/fresh versus the junior/sophmore. “They can get cutthroat,” said Faciano. “We tried to soften that up a bit, have the kids work together more. The goal is for the kids to do their best, to put on the best show and not beat each other. We’re teaching them to be good winners and good losers.” Still, the competition does sneak in. Judging the final product are faculty, staff, family of faculty and advisors and former alumni, invited to rate each show and award a winner. This year, the seniors are looking to claim their first victory as a class. Over the past three years, they have been involved with the productions, learning from the seniors their freshmen year and developing skills to be in a position to now teach the current freshmen. “When it comes together, it’s such an amazing experience,” said Central SING! producer Meghan Straut-Collard. On a Saturday a few weeks before their big nights, students could be found all over inside Murrow’s colored walls – on stage choreographing the opening number, in the gym rehearsing the closing number, in the band room getting the timing right on a song, on sewing machines making costumes and working with saws and drills building sets. Though the prospect may be daunting – put on a student-run production year after year – the students succeed, with sold-out shows to boot. “I always think, if you can do SING! you can do anything,” said Faciano. Through the creative opportunities that present themselves through SING!, picking up a drill or designing a dress leads some students to finding something they love to do. “I definitely fell in love with it,” said senior Chloe Bader, crew chief and technical director for the senior/fresh team, who is in charge of figuring out the best way to design the team’s set, such as a huge volcano on the bill for this year. “I’m definitely going to pursue it in college.” Junior Gloria Privler hopes to get a lead in the school’s productions, but in the meantime enjoys making costumes. “It’s the only thing I’m committed to after school,” said Privler. “This is something I’m committed to and I love it.” For many students at Murrow, SING! is just one after-school activity they participate in. Take senior Elexis Goldberg, who, in addition to being a director in the production, works on her school’s newspaper and literary publications and is on the school’s first aid squad, in its Italian Club and is a theater patron. “There are so many opportunities here, I want to take advantage,” said Goldberg. “Some leave school at 11 [a.m.], I’m here till 11 at night.” In addition to finding something they love, students that participate in the competition find lasting relationships, develop leadership skills and connect with their school on a deeper level. “It gives you the opportunity to forge and build relationships that go beyond the classroom,” said SING! faculty advisor Daria McKloskey. “We have a truly dedicated staff to the tradition at Murrow and what today large schools are capable of doing. You can’t get it at small schools.” While Murrow has managed to keep its tradition alive for the past 30 years, other Brooklyn schools, like South Shore, Canarsie, Sheepshead Bay, FDR and Erasmus Hall Campus High School have discontinued their SING! competitions. New Utrecht had ceased putting SING! Productions on in the mid-1990s, but faculty who are dedicated SING! alumni brought it back to the school last year. Murrow’s dedication to the arts and theater is in its favor for maintaining the success of the annual tradition. “We don’t have sports – we spend money on music, theater, arts,” said Faciano. “Other schools spend $100,000 on a football team, we spend it on a theater program for everyone.” And while winning is on the agenda, it’s not the be all and end all. “Winning doesn’t matter,” said senior producer Dana Driscoll. “You have so much fun coming in on a Saturday.” Edward R. Murrow High School’s SING! 2008 will be held February 1 (Senior/Fresh) and 2 (Junior/Sophomore) at 8 p.m. in the Joseph Anzalone Theater. The school is located at 1600 Avenue L. Tickets are $10. For more information, call 718-258-9283.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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