South Side High School’s Centre Stage dazzles audiences

Inclusive theater program puts on 12th show in front of packed crowds


The South Side High School auditorium was packed with cheering spectators on May 30 and 31, as Centre Stage’s performance brought down the house in its 12th year. The inclusive theater program has been a Rockville Centre favorite for more than a decade, and the program continues to attract crowds.

“It’s a great formula,” said Ellen White, Centre Stage’s director and producer, referring to the mix of group dances, heartfelt singing solos and witty scenes in this year’s production.

However, it’s not just Centre Stage’s pop culture references or the appearances from village officials and school district administrators that make it so popular. The “magic” of Centre Stage is evident as both general-education actors and those with special needs share the stage, according to White.

Centre Stage was created in 2008 by classmates Brian Nesdill and Catherine Mackey, who wanted to create a program that was inclusive and engaging for all members of the South Side community. Since then, Centre Stage has become a place for students of all abilities to channel their creative talents and stage a feel-good, community-oriented production. In this year’s show, students from South Side Middle School and Covert Elementary School joined the cast.

The production, “Centre Stage Goes to the Movies,” told the story of five siblings — played by Erin Morgan, Lila Naccari, Cassandra Kouyate, Charlie Kosina and Annie Baker — who reluctantly start summer jobs at an old movie theater. As they revitalize the theater, characters from popular films, such as “Star Wars,” “Jaws,” “Harry Potter,” “Toy Story” and “The Avengers,” emerge to help them.

Baker, who has been a member of Centre Stage for six years, noted that the actors are given a chance to showcase their individual talents. Quinn Wilson, for example, played Woody from “Toy Story” and sang “You’ve Got A Friend In Me.” Amy Sclafani performed a dance as the shark from “Jaws.”

“Everyone gets to dance and act — stuff they don’t get to do every day,” Baker said.

Naccari and Morgan, two longtime Centre Stage cast members, both said White is the key to Centre Stage’s success.

“It’s about Mrs. White,” Morgan said. Naccari chimed in, “I’m gonna have to agree with that. Mrs. White is the best.”

“It’s uplifting, and it’s fun, and it gets people involved,” White said of Centre Stage. “We’re telling a story with song and dance and funny lines, and I think it’s just great.”