Summer Stage “Embraces the Unknown” Ahead Of Milestone Anniversary

A few years ago, Upper Darby Summer Stage introduced thematic approaches to each of their seasons to reinforce the lessons that each show provides for the community. It started internally with Summer Stage staff in Chris Luner, artistic and managing director’s first season at the helm: the theme was home. What is home? Where is home? And of course celebrating, that Summer Stage is home. Last year, participants and audiences alike were encouraged to take risks and not back down from challenges. This year at Summer Stage, we are all on a journey to embrace the unknown. So what does that mean, exactly? Let’s dig a little deeper.

Each of Summer Stage’s seven shows for the 2024 season were hand-selected based on their ability to help us embrace the unknown. Kicking off with Dot and the Kangaroo, Jr. the unknown can be when it comes to the unknown of adventure and exploring where you’ve never gone before. Not to mention the show takes place halfway around the world from where we host our program in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. We continue with Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr. and what it means to have your own voice and the unknown of what the cost can be to have your voice heard.

Midway through the season, The Lightning Thief, TYA shows us the uncertainty of your personal power as Percy Jackson goes on a journey to return Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt, and realizes that, alongside friends, any monster life brings can be defeated. After that, A Year With Frog & Toad, TYA will have us laughing and loving the common ground between two unlikely characters who, despite being total opposites, can find a middle ground.

The season continues with Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Musical and all the unknown that comes with being a middle-schooler. There’s no need to go any further. Finally, we round out our children’s theatre season with Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, Jr. and how one can feel in different worlds. I think I’ve read that before with the land down under with the exception that these worlds are imaginative and Alice’s journey home proves to be quite heroic.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our mainstage show, Disney’s Newsies the Musical! The story of Jack Kelly and the newsboys of New York standing up for what is right in a story for anyone who has ever faced a personal crossroads in their life. It’s the ultimate David vs Goliath showdown and is the pinnacle example of how taking on the unknown can create a better tomorrow for everyone

All of this comes with the milestone anniversary of Season 50 approaching in a mere 12 months and the unknown of everything that will come after Season 50. 50 years is a long time for a program of Summer Stage’s kind to continue operating and it’s without hesitation that the celebration is bound to be one for the ages. But what do we do when we get to years 51, 52, 53, etc?

We should continue to embrace the lessons of this year and remember fondly what Season 49 will teach us over the coming weeks. While certain aspects may fade from our memories, we will never forget the common ground forged between casts, the celebrations of successful performances, and the lessons learned while having an enormous amount of fun. 

So, what will next year’s theme be? Family? Celebration? Who knows! But if there’s one thing that is certain, it’s that the theme will be cognizant of Summer Stage’s foundation, legacy, and future.

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