Tonight, the stars of Hollywood will gather to honor some of their own during the 64th annual Emmy awards.
But the kids at West Deptford Little Theatre will tell Hollywood it’s too late. The important honors were given out last Sunday at RiverWinds, when the theater group closed its 39th summer season with a celebratory awards ceremony.
Now, I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic—and, yes, old—as I sat with my friends at the ceremony. You see, I attended a similar event a lifetime ago, when WDLT was ending its first season. That was back in the day when we met in a backyard on Cromwell Court, when sets were painted by parents and friends in our driveways, and when every “older member” of the group had a job. Anne Cassabian, whose parents graciously shared their house and yard, was one of the two directors, and the late Cathie Foley was our dance director. (Being a former member of the swim team, my job was “life guard,” supervising the littler kids in the Cassabians’ pool during lunch.)
The other director was Sue Schramm, who had founded the group with her husband, Joe. For 38 seasons, they lead the group and its board of directors, finally stepping aside last year.
The new president is Joey Schramm, who can honestly claim he had been with the organization since birth. Despite the up and downs the group has experienced in almost four decades, Schramm feels WDLT is still thriving, and that this summer was an overwhelming success.
“This has been the best season we produced in a long time,” he says, acknowledging the group’s sold-out productions of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Willie Wonka.
“We had many new family and faces join our group. The registration numbers have improved, the volunteers on show nights have greatly improved, and I firmly believe the quality of the performances has improved,” Schramm adds.
The group, which has performed in various venues since those days in the streets of Sherwood, was also celebrating the end of its first season with a new home. Daily rehearsals and three performances of each show were held at Green-Fields Elementary School this year. Schramm acknowledged “the help of the school board, particularly Superintendent Kevin Kitchenman and board President Christopher Strano, for their help and continued support” in helping secure the venue.
The afternoon was full of conversation and catching up, of snacking on movie treats and greeting friends who shared the summer activity. But through it all, the kids kept eying the table displaying the medals, the trophies of various sizes and the tiara that would crown the new Miss West Deptford Little Theatre, the highest honor for a young lady.
Make that two young ladies. For only second time in 39 seasons, two teenagers—Cady Watts and Amy Pinardo—were crowned and will act as co-queens this year.
“I am so happy to share this once in a lifetime experience with Amy,” says Watts, a 2012 WD grad who directed The Little Mermaid this year.
“Being Miss WDLT means a lot to me,” added Watts, who has been a part of the group since 2003. “I have always imagined what it would be like to be Miss WDLT, but I never thought I would ever get the chance to actually be Miss WDLT. It really shows that you can accomplish anything if you put some effort into it.”
Of course, the top honors don’t just go to the females. GCIT sophomore Adam Wesen-Morina was named the group’s Young Man of the Year. He was enthusiastic about the upcoming anniversary year and looking forward to his role in it.
“Being Young Man of the Year means that I’ll be able to represent WDLT in the best way that I can and have fun with it,” he says.
Wesen-Morina, who started in the group eight years ago as a munchkin and flying monkey in The Wizard of Oz, says the theater has become a family for its members. “Everyone there is so welcoming and that’s what keeps me coming back. I’ve met so many good friends.”
The group said goodbye to the summer season, but are looking ahead to its 40th anniversary year. Schramm foresees a yearlong celebration, and would like to hear from the group’s alumni—including anyone else who remembers those days on Cromwell Court.