By John Bernhardt

It’s funny how one Saturday phone call can significantly change your life, even if only for a six-week period of time. That was the case when Dr. Robert Chakar called my house in mid March asking if I might play a role in putting together a last ditch effort to stage a musical production at Andes Central School this school year.


Alexis Redden and Peter James DePierro

I have to admit, I had my doubts when Doc unveiled his dramatic vision that day.  In most area schools, musical productions were in their final stages of development, the spring sport season was underway and music programs were busy preparing local youngsters to perform in All-County performances and at the NYSMAAs. It seemed unlikely that against those odds, we could harness the creativity and energy needed to stage a quality musical show.

It was only when Bob mentioned his hope that Eloise Harris would sign on to the project that I agreed. Previous experience with Eloise preparing Andes musical productions had left me wowed, amazed at her unlimited passion and energy for theater, and the lifetime of rich theater experiences she would bring to Bob’s challenge.

There was no time to lose. The show that unfolded was the brainchild of Eloise. She understood the challenges and limitations we faced and crafted a show that could work within those confines. My doubts were enormous, but I had watched Eloise work wonders before and trusted she would work her magic again. She did not disappoint.

For much of my life I have worked in and around sports teams. Again and again, I have watched young people surpass expectations when they discover the power that comes with employing “we” over “me.” As the architect of the Andes spring musical extravaganza, Eloise Harris tapped into the power of teamwork. Eloise stretched the ACS spring beyond the Drama Club making it a total school and community event.

Think about it. Where else but ACS would you find a home-grown musical production with a play script co-authored by a high school senior, Jonathan Andrews, and the co-musical directors, with a cast that included students from preschool to the senior year in high school, and with teachers, staff and community members and even the Superintendent of Schools performing on stage. Over my long career in public education, I had never seen anything like it.


Jonathan Andrews as the Star Trek captain.

And, that’s only speaking about what the viewing audience saw and enjoyed on the stage. Behind the scenes, Eloise wove together a network of support people, folks who labored to complete the sets, assist with the choreography, supervise the ‘Little Players,’ work on sound and lighting, complete programs with advertising, dig out or design and sew costumes, etc. On and on the list of contributions grew. However big or small a contribution one could make, everyone was welcomed and encouraged to support the effort in whatever way they could manage.

The end result was magical, a fast-paced night of rollicking fun with music and dance, Ed Sullivan, the Star Trek crew and lots of laughs.  Andes has much to be proud of from their little school that could.  With a forward thinking vision and the contributions of many heads and many hands, I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – turned into I knew I could – I knew I could – I knew I could – testimony once again of what can be achieved when people work together as a team. ~