“I was a dramatic child”
PV theatre director and alumni has always been interested in the arts
Merielle Lupfer looks out at the audience while sitting on the stage during the rehearsal process for the fall drama “Metamorphoses.” She remembers being in the same spot almost 20 years ago, listening to her director call cast members “twits.” She grins as she reminisces about her old director’s personality and the fun she had participating in his shows.
Lupfer, a director of the Pascack Valley Theatre program, is a former student and theater participant of PV. She attended PV and acted in shows at the school from 1998 to 2001. She currently co-directs PV Theatre with her husband, Tom Lupfer, who she met at New York University while pursuing a degree in educational theater.
“I chose that major specifically with the goal of someday running a high school theater department,” Lupfer said. “The idea that it could be PV’s theatre department was a dream, but not one that I really thought might come true.”
Lupfer has been interested in theater since a young age.
“I was a dramatic child,” she said. “I was always dressing up and putting on shows, sometimes for my parents and grandmother, sometimes for no one at all. I could imagine an audience, all I needed was a costume and some music.”
Lupfer developed an interest in musicals from her family and from seeing her middle school productions, but it was not until high school when she auditioned for her first drama.
The first show she was cast in was “A Few Good Men” in 1998. She was only one of a few freshmen who received parts in the show.
At the time, Pascack Valley Theatre and director Ed Bialkin made cuts for each show. In the theater program today, no cuts are made. The cast of “A Few Good Men” consisted of only 18 people, which is about half the size of the cast of this year’s past drama, “Metamorphoses.”
“I think it’s really important that anyone who wants to do their high school show can do their high school show,” Lupfer said. “Everyone should have that opportunity.”
Eventually, Lupfer helped to coordinate costumes for her high school shows. As she moved on to junior and senior year she spent a lot of her free time during lunch and after school costuming the shows and other students began showing an interest in it as well. As a result, Lupfer began teaching these students how to work with costumes.
“We put so much thought into all of it, even the little details. We will do things like pick certain colors for the main characters in the shows to represent who they are or to foreshadow parts of the show,” Mackenzie Klink, a PV sophomore who is apart of Lady Crew, said. “For example, in our production of Pippin we incorporated red into all the principal characters’ costumes to represent the fire at the end of the show.”
Now, Lupfer explains how watching shows is a much different experience after being in shows and working as a director. When she goes to see a show, she spends a lot of her time looking at the lights and the sets and the acting.
“I used to go and see a show and just listen to the story and experience it,” Lupfer said. “But that’s never going to be true again.”
When she talks to former students who are now studying theatre in college she finds that they have a similar experience.
Although she adored her director, Lupfer said that the overall quality of the productions has gotten better since her high school days. The shows that are produced through PV Theatre are no longer just good by high school standards, but by any standard.
“Our community is missing out on seeing some really good work,” Lupfer said. “The quality has improved, but there hasn’t been an increase in the prominence of theatre in our school community and that’s a bummer. I think we can do better.”
Last year’s musical “Urinetown” received an honorable mention for an Outstanding Performance of the featured ensemble group, “The Poor,” and a nomination in Outstanding Hair and Makeup Design by Merielle Lupfer from the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards. Maggie Capone won the Outstanding Vocal Performance award as Penelope Pennywise and a nomination was received for Outstanding Production Number (“Urinetown”).
Last year’s drama, “Letters To Sala,” received an award in Outstanding Production of a Drama, Outstanding Leading Actress in a Drama (Brenna Fitzmaurice as Ann Kirschner), and Outstanding Lighting Design (Erin O’Brien) from the Montclair State University Foxy Awards.
The spring musical, “Pippin” closed on March 19 and next year the cast will be performing a drama in the fall and a musical in the spring.
“PV was where I discovered my love of theatre, and I did hope that one day I might be able to come back and help others discover theirs,” Lupfer said.