Alicia Naughton conducts choir practice at St. Patrick’s School in Hudson. The school’s performing arts program produces talent that graces the community long after students graduate. (Catholic Herald photo by Joe Winter)

Joe Winter
Special to the Catholic Herald

Whether it’s dance, acting or musicals, the students and alumni of St. Patrick’s School in Hudson continue to take their talent far beyond holiday concerts. Their performances extend to the regionally prestigious local Phipps Center For The Arts and Hudson High School, both of which have orchestra hall-style auditoriums, in a variety of productions.

A recent rehearsal at the Catholic school found about 30 students standing on a tiered stage, preparing for a play months away. “The Royal Bachelor” will be the annual St. Patrick’s seventh- and eighth-grade show, performed at the Phipps, starting at the end of the school year.

Alicia Naughton is a middle school teacher at St. Patrick’s and one of its alumni. She was directing the rehearsal, and Amanda Fedor, a St. Patrick’s alum who also has a lot of related experience, is the assistant director.

Naughton said it is impressive for any parochial school to get to this point in their various productions, and the prominent venues at which they are performed, and have students acting and dancing.

These are some of the other highlights this year, featuring St. Patrick’s students.

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is the annual fall play at the Phipps for those in middle school, with Callaghan Waldal, a current St. Patrick’s student, acting.

“Les Misérables” is another fall annual musical at Hudson High School, and performers Natalie Ramthun, AJ Lentz, Lucia Berg and Carolin Waldal are all alumni of St. Patrick’s; another one is Coleen Waldal, who is working backstage.

“Tuck Everlasting” comes in February/March as a musical at the Phipps for high schoolers, with auditions now being held. Naughton is directing the music.

The Phipps Dance Company, which hosts a big program in the spring, features Ramthun and Catholic school alum Emelia Tigan as dancers. It also has a Junior Dance Company with Adele Tigan performing.

Art and general music classes are required curriculum at St Patrick’s.

“The kids get a chance to explore visual arts with Ms. Pieper’s wide array of artistic genres, myself and Mrs. Ashwood split general music (elementary for her, middle school for me), and we offer band with Ashwood or ShamROCK show choir with me as extracurriculars,” Naughton said. Ashwood is also a member of a family trio that does prominent local gigs.

“If there is a common theme, I’d say it was artistic exploration, and allowing Christ to speak through our talents,” Naughton said.

“For music, I try to convey to my students through music exposure that there is no right or wrong way to appreciate music. Listen with an open mind and feel with your heart. I often get the, ‘I don’t like music without words,’ response, but ask any gamer, and they will admit how lost they get listening to their favorite games soundtrack.

“Spiritual connections to music allow us the gateway to an escape; from homework, pressures at home, social anxieties … you name it. Giving my students that chance to learn how to take that mental and spiritual escape is the ultimate goal,” she said.

With the drama side of music classes, she tries to allow the students to do what feels right in the scene.

“It becomes more natural and looks more natural if it comes from an honest place. Much like our spiritual connection to Christ, we become more connected as people in the moment when we put it into practice,” Naughton said.

Does she have any tips for teachers and artistic directors and students on how they might replicate such a thing at their Catholic schools?

“Help. Volunteers. An assistant director, if you can get one. I did this on my own for about five years, and I have no idea how, besides sleepless nights and lots of coffee. Now in my second year of having an assistant, I am able to breathe,” she said.

“The biggest thing is utilizing the skills your volunteers have. You have a handyman? Great! Beg him to build your sets. Have a seamstress? Fantastic! Ask her to help find costumes. Have no one? Well, time to start asking your local schools for donations or tips,” she said.

Along the same lines of volunteering is networking.

“I would be nowhere without my connections to the Phipps, the high school, and other surrounding theater groups. We all lift each other up to bring these shows to life. That’s the best part of theater,” Naughton said, “but we’re all in it together, and we all know what it’s like building from the dirt. Helping each other create art is what it’s all about.”