Saturday, May 23, 2015

High School Musical

Lou Volpe, drama teacher at Truman HS in Levittown since 1969, directs his student cast during rehearsals for "Spring Awakening," the Tony-winning musical dealing with tough issues.

High School Musical

Truman HS Drama Teacher Lou Volpe Video: Truman HS Drama Teacher Lou Volpe

Drama teacher Lou Volpe has headed Truman High's drama department since 1969. He was the first teacher to stage a high school production of Rent, and as Inquirer columnist Karen Heller writes today, "his production of Les Mis - with a cast and crew of 127! - is the definitive school production."

I stopped by for a few minutes this week to photograph Volpe directing the debut high school production of Spring Awakening, the Tony-winning musical that addresses child abuse, abortion, homosexuality, rape, religious authority, and suicide to a rock score.

It's not your usual high school musical, but parents in the struggling Levittown school are supportive of the program's ambition and professionalism. Truman High, Karen says, with 1,575 students is more celebrated for theater and the debate team than athletics or graduates attending top four-year colleges. Most can't afford to look outside the state system. As Mr. Volpe says, "Many kids are working to help their parents pay the mortgage."

Click here, or on the photos, for a gallery with more pictures. There's also a video:

Inquirer Staff Photographer
About this blog

Tom Gralish is a general assignment photographer at The Inquirer, concentrating on local news and self-generated feature photos.

He has been at the paper since 1983, photographing everything from revolution in the Philippines to George W. Bush’s road to the White House to homeless people living on the street right outside his newspaper's front door. For his photo essay on Philadelphia’s homeless, he was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Award.

His weekly newspaper column, "Scene Through the Lens," takes a look at Philadelphia's urban landscape.

Gralish, along with Inquirer colleague and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Vitez, spent a year visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art to capture the stories and photos of "Rocky runners" who come from all over the world to climb the steps - just as Sylvester Stallone did in the Academy Award winning film, Rocky. Their book, Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps, was published in November 2006.

Reach Tom at

Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
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