Young cast members continue Lenten musical tradition

Wednesday, March 11, 2020 - Updated: 1:04 pm

By JOHN FRANKO Staff Writer

Long before the On Mission for The Church Alive! initiative, the St. Sebastian youth ministry Lenten musical was bringing young people from different parishes together in a storied tradition.

It continues this year with the Neighbors North Catholic Community CYO’s presentation of “City of Man” from March 26-29 at Holy Cross Academy’s Getty Hall in Ross Township.

The production depicts the greatest story ever told (of Christ) in a modern-day setting. It will encourage positive social media postings that uplift rather than tear down. 

The annual play will benefit the Appalachian Mission, “Project HOPE,” and the diocese’s medical mission in Chimbote, Peru.

“With the bogging down of social media that teens suffer through these days, we want to have something positive and uplifting to be present, and to remind teens that there is more out there than what they know,” said Katie Dorman, youth minister for the Neighbors North Catholic Community. “With the amount of negativity that is so easily accessed, it is refreshing and gives a sense of hope to anyone who sees what we do and feels the impact of these teens on their lives.”

The Neighbors North Catholic Community includes St. Sebastian, Incarnation of the Lord, St. Athanasius and St. Teresa of Avila parishes. 

The production is bringing together 41 students from nine parishes and 12 high schools. Dorman pointed out that the students draw each other in. They all know someone who has been in past plays or who are current cast members.

“The positive reinforcement of faith, growth in maturity and relationships, and nurturing that the students get from participating in these productions is paramount,” she said. “I have personally never seen anything like this before.”

Cast member Brooke Sturgis is a member of SS. John and Paul Parish and a student at North Catholic High School. She noted that the production is an opportunity to meet students from other schools who share faith values.

“It gave me so much more than I could ever imagine,” Sturgis said. “We’re doing what we love.”

David Lukac is a member of St. Teresa of Avila Parish and a senior at North Hills High School. He described the production as a unique opportunity to bring teens together when they face so many distractions and expectations.

“We realize how important it is,” he said. “When you realize the importance of it you find the time to make that commitment.”

The production raises some $30,000 each year. Since 2012, a total of $140,093 in donations have been split between the two charities. Cast members will talk about the missions during intermission.

Craig Kreutzer is in his 22nd year as director. He is assisted by Sheri Giger Miller, who noted the presence of 13 freshmen in the cast and how many of the young people have been exposed to the production for a number of years.

“It’s more of a higher purpose that they feel,” she said of their involvement. “They can use their talents to spread the Gospel.”

Choreographer Sarah Connors noted the production’s message of hope in that it begins with the crucifixion. Noting its high energy, she said, “It will touch people’s hearts and prepare them for Easter.”

Vocal director Angela Gross spoke of the special connection of faith among the cast members and of their enthusiasm in engaging the audience in the production.

“They’ll feel like they’re part of the action,” she said.

As in past years, Father John Rushofsky, administrator of the Neighbors North Catholic Community, will join the musical ensemble. He has an extensive musical background and has played harp in the production. This year, he will accompany it on keyboard.

“I enjoy playing,” he said. “It was a need. I would do anything for the kids.”

The performances give him a lift, Father Rushofsky added, and the dedication of the cast gives him so much hope.

Performance times are Friday, March 27, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 28, at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, March 29, at 2 p.m. Tickets will not be sold, but a freewill offering will be taken. Cash, checks and Venmo (@NeighborsNorthCYO) will be accepted. Seats are on a first come, first serve basis.

A cabaret dinner performance will be Thursday, March 26, at 7:30 p.m. Doors will open at 6:15 p.m. The cost is $50 per seat.

Information can be found on Facebook (Neighbors North Youth Ministry) or by contacting Dorman at 412-364-8999, ext. 8520, or kdorman@saintsebastianparish.org.

The musical’s roots stem from the early 1970s, when Dr. John Brungo and his late wife, Corrine, got together with Father Paul Bradley (now bishop of Kalamazoo, Michigan) to organize a benefit to fight world hunger. In 1975, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” became the first production. Corrine served as director for some 25 years.

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