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Carlisle Schools
Making a Musical: Carlisle cast and crew use talents to reel in "Big Fish"

Sarah Smith can be a very different person every time she walks onto the stage.

In one scene, she’s a tap dancer. In another, a circus show girl. In a third, a townsperson.

Her supporting role as the Witch has her playing a very confident, larger-than-life character with plenty of lines and a demanding solo for her Alto 2 voice.

“It’s a lot to remember,” said Smith, 17, a Carlisle High School senior. “It’s a lot of work to be an ensemble member. You are acting, singing and dancing all at the same time.”

A Dickinson Township resident, she is one of about 60 students gearing up to present the musical “Big Fish” Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the McGowan building auditorium at Carlisle High School.

For Smith, every role demands a different delivery, a different look and attitude, and lots and lots of words and personality committed to memory. And she has to keep it all straight.

“On the stage, you have to stay focused,” said Smith, a veteran of four high school musicals. “You can’t let your mind wander or yourself just enjoy the scene. You have to know what is coming next.”

Lead roles

Classmate Ozzy Smith plays Edward Bloom, the lead male role. The part will challenge him to maintain a stage presence through all but the last two scenes.

“I just love theater,” said Smith, 18, of North Middleton Township. “It’s a lot of work, but the end product is always worth it. I love working with a whole bunch of people to put on a show that we can all learn to love.”

This passion shows in the workload. Since early December, the cast has been rehearsing for the production almost every day after school. On top of that are many hours spent at home learning the songs and the script, practicing the dance routines, listening to the soundtrack and watching performances on video.

The more the cast unravels it, the more excited they get at the opportunity to present “Big Fish” to an audience, Smith said. “It’s just a feeling you can’t replicate.”

Fellow senior Sarah Swahlon plays the female lead of Sandra Bloom, wife of Edward. The role has its own set of challenges and opportunities for the 18-year-old from North Middleton Township.

“This musical is filled with a lot of different little stories and flashbacks,” Swahlon said. “I actually play Sandra when she is a teenager, a college-aged girl, a young mom, an older mom and a grandma. I have to do a lot of changing up the voice and making my actions older and younger in between times.

“Sometimes I feel I’m not meant for this role … that I’m not meant to be able to do it,” Swahlon said. “But the people around you are the ones that help you realize you are doing this because you love it. That’s what really gets you through it. You are passionate about it.”

Like so many students in a high school musical production, Swahlon has mastered the art of being a jack- (or Jacqueline) of-all-trades. Not only is she a main character, she helped to construct many of the sets and helped her mother fabricate many of the props.


Classmate Jamie Hafner, 18, of Carlisle, went from being on the ensemble her freshman through junior years to being the student director/stage manager in “Big Fish.”

“It’s 10 jobs wrapped into one,” said Hafner, who volunteered for the experience because she wants to major in art administration in college. “I’m part of the show from start to finish.”

A self-described “giant theater nerd,” Hafner first heard of “Big Fish” in 2013. She was excited when she learned Carlisle was going to put on the musical her senior year.

Her involvement began in October when auditions were held. Hafner was on the panel that judged each performance and finalized the cast list.

From there, her job turned to paperwork and planning for the sets, costumes, advertising and many other details involved with a major stage production.

With a cast and crew in full rehearsal mode, her work now is mostly about wrangling students backstage, making sure they know where to stand, where to enter and how to behave. “I’m basically in charge of all my peers,” Hafner said.

Recently, she put together a stage manager’s box, a kind of survival kit in case of an emergency. Items include extra make-up appliers and removers, bobby pins, Band-Aids and a flashlight. “It has everything I could possibly need if something goes wrong.”

But with all the management demands come opportunities to help other students reach their full potential. One of her jobs as student director was to offer advice to cast members on how to interpret their lines and act out their character.

“It’s magical to see them not only fall in love with a unique and beautiful tale, but to grow as a person,” Hafner said. “Seeing them blossom is a joy.”

Tech side

Other students have discovered they can make a contribution without appearing on stage. Sophomores Sean Jones and Liam Crider are behind-the-scenes technicians.

As an audio engineer, Jones constantly monitors the sound board and wireless mikes to make sure every cast member can be heard by the audience. The work involves equalizing the volume across the spectrum while reducing any feedback or distortion.

In middle school, Jones was part of the cast, but he decided in high school to switch to engineering. “I’ve never once thought of going back,” Jones said. “I enjoy tech things. It’s a way I can be involved without having to commit to being a performer.”

As for Crider, his role in sound effects and as the wireless technician is his first real involvement with a school activity. The wireless part of the job was completed early with setting up the network of mikes. Now his main function is to make sure each unit has a working battery.

Sound effects involve Crider closely following the script as the cast acts out each scene. Timing is vital when success depends on triggering each pre-packaged downloaded effect on the computer at the exact moment when it is needed. Often, Crider has to coordinate the sound effect with a lighting effect.

The tech crew started rehearsing with the cast the week before “Big Fish” is set to open to the public. The first week is spent getting used to the blend of sound, light, music and dialogue. It is the time for the cast and crew to make any necessary adjustments.

The days leading to opening night are particularly intense with rehearsals lasting from 6 to 10 p.m. “That second week, it has to be perfect,” Jones said. Any miscue or mishap would be obvious to the public.

“It’s fun to know you are adding to it,” Crider said. “That your job is important.”

Michael Bupp, The Sentinel 

Students perform a sound test before rehearsal of the musical "Big Fish" at Carlisle High School.

List of area high school musicals for 2018

Here is a list of spring musicals at area high schools. All musicals take place at the school’s auditorium unless noted otherwise.

Big Spring High School

Musical: “The Phantom of the Opera”

When: 7 p.m. April 5-6 and 12-14, 2 p.m. April 7

Admission: Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at Tickets will be available at the door. Credit cards can purchase reserved seating online. Cash and check will be only form of accepted payment at the door.

Boiling Springs High School

Musical: Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit’s “The Phantom”

When: 7 p.m. March 8-10, 1:30 p.m. March 11

Admission: Tickets are $9 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. Tickets will be available at the door.

Camp Hill High School

Musical: “The Sound of Music”

When: 7 p.m. March 8-10, 2 p.m. March 11

Details: The musical will be performed at the Grace Milliman Pollock Performing Arts Center, 340 N. 21st St., Camp Hill.

Admission: Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students/seniors. For more information, call 717-901-2400, ext. 2456, not the high school office.

Carlisle High School

Musical: “Big Fish”

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22-24

Admission: Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students on Feb. 22; Reserved seating tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students on Feb. 23-24 (discounts available for those with staff or military ID). Box office hours in the auditorium lobby of the high school are 3 to 5:30 p.m. weekdays, or tickets are available online at

Cedar Cliff High School

Musical: “The Drowsy Chaperone”

When: 4 p.m. senior matinee March 15, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. March 16-17

Admission: Tickets are $12 for adults or $6 for students. All seats at the door are $12. Dinner theater tickets with performance are $35 and starts at 5 p.m. March 17. Public ticket sales will start at 3 p.m. Feb. 12.

Cumberland Valley High School

Musical: “Nice Work If You Can Get It”

When: 7 p.m. April 11-15, 2 p.m. April 15

Admission: Tickets are $15 for adults or $12 for students. Tickets can be purchased online at For more information, call 717-506-3936 or email

Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School

Musical: “Monty Python’s Spamalot”

When: 6:30 p.m. March 8, 7:30 p.m. March 9-10, 2 p.m. March 11

Details: A dinner theater will also be available at 5:30 p.m. March 10 and will last until the start of the show.

Admission: Tickets are $12.50 for adults, $10.50 for students and senior citizens, and $40.50 for the dinner theater. Tickets will be sold at the high school lobby starting Feb. 17 from 8 a.m. to noon. Box office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.

Shippensburg Area Senior High School

Musical: “The Music Man”

When: 7 p.m. March 8-10, 2 p.m. March 10

Admission: Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and senior citizens, and free for children 4 and younger. Tickets will go on sale one hour before the show or are available online at

Trinity High School

Musical: “Beauty and the Beast”

When: 7 p.m. March 2-3, 2 p.m. March 4

Admission: Tickets are $12 for adults or $7 for students and military with ID. VIP tickets are $17, and Saturday dinner before the show is $12 (not including show ticket). Tickets will be available for purchase online in the coming weeks, and will be available at the door.

Perry County

West Perry High School

Musical: “Grease”

When: 7 p.m. March 8-10, 2 p.m. March 10

Admission: Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by calling and leaving a message at 717-789-3931, ext. 5300, or by going online at

York County

Northern High School

Musical: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

When: 7 p.m. March 2-3, 3 p.m. March 4

Admission: Tickets are $10. Tickets are available at or at the auditorium lobby from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday (except for March 3).

Red Land High School

Musical: “Peter Pan”

When: 7 p.m. Feb. 22-24, 2 p.m. Feb. 25

Admission: Advanced tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for students. All seats are $12 at the door. Tickets can be purchased online at

Carlisle Schools
Carlisle School Board: Spielbauer ‘best’ person on job

Carlisle Area School Board members defended their strategy Thursday of promoting an administrator from within rather than seeking outside applicants for the job of district superintendent.

Seven board members approved a four-year contract that appointed Christina M. Spielbauer permanent superintendent effective March 1. Deborah Sweaney and Linda Manning were absent.

The contract runs through Feb. 28, 2022, with a first-year salary of $153,500. The terms allow for the possibility of an increase each year of the agreement.

The board last June appointed Spielbauer acting superintendent through the current school year, which ends June 30. She was the assistant superintendent under John Friend, who retired last summer.

The appointment Thursday of Spielbauer marks the second time in a row the district has promoted an assistant superintendent to the chief administrator position.

Current president Paula Bussard was on the board when Friend was promoted from assistant superintendent to superintendent in March 2010 to replace Mary Kay Durham. Friend took office on July 1, 2010, under an initial five-year contract and served for seven years. He was with the district a total of 34 years.

“This board takes very seriously its governance responsibilities,” Bussard said Thursday. “For many members of the board, developing leadership from within is something that we had in previous superintendents.”

She said that in recent months, the board has invested a lot of time and effort to research and update the job description for superintendent to include skill sets that are needed at this time.

In January, Bussard announced that the board would interview an internal candidate from the central district office rather than seek outside applicants.

“At this jointure, after having a discussion on what kind of questions we would ask a candidate, we felt we have an individual inside that merited serious consideration,” Bussard said in January.

Since it was a personnel issue, Bussard could not confirm or deny Spielbauer was the candidate. The acting superintendent underwent a job interview that lasted about two hours before the board decided to enter into negotiations that resulted in the four-year contract.

“It has been a pleasure and joy to watch you blossom in your role as acting superintendent,” board member Bruce Clash told Spielbauer Thursday. He said the board talked at length about the potential pitfalls of promoting from within, including the lack of fresh ideas and an emphasis on maintaining the status quo.

“There was no evidence of that,” Clash said of the interview. “I was impressed by your new ideas and your willingness to try new approaches. You are well respected by leaders in the community.”

Board member Rick Coplen, who took a leading role in updating the job description, described encounters he had with senior citizens in the community who wanted the board to seek outside applicants.

“I smiled sweetly, looked at them politely and asked them very simply ‘Have you ever met Christina Spielbauer? Have you talked to her?’” Coplen said. They had no answers, he said.

“The right question to me is not ‘Is Christina Spielbauer up to the task?’” Coplen said. “The right question is “Are we all up to the task?’ because it’s not up to one person. It really does take a village.”

“Everything I have seen and heard says to me that you have earned the trust of this position,” Coplen told Spielbauer. “Congratulations. It’s well-deserved.”

Long-time board member Gerald Eby favored promoting Spielbauer from the beginning. He was not in favor of an outside search for qualified applicants.

“Why do that when we already have the best person around for the job?” Eby asked. “We really did not have to look that far.” Eby supports growing talent from within by offering administrators opportunities at professional development.

“We need to continue to help people that we have in our different positions throughout the school district,” he said.

The board last June put into place an interim management team to oversee the district in 2017-18. That team will stay in place through June 30, the end of the school year, Spielbauer said Thursday. She added, at that time, there may be adjustments to recommend to the board.

For now, former Wilson Middle School principal Colleen Friend will continue to serve as acting assistant superintendent while former assistant principal Walter Bond will serve as acting principal of Wilson. Allison Thumma, a seventh-grade teacher, will continue to serve as acting assistant principal replacing Bond.

Like Friend, Spielbauer spent much of her career in the Carlisle school district. The child of a military family, she first came to the area when her father was a student at the Army War College and continued on as a faculty member.

She earned a bachelor’s of science degree in elementary and special education before becoming a learning support teacher and homebound instructor for the district in 1998.

Spielbauer worked as a teacher for Carlisle for four and a half years before becoming assistant principal at Wilson Middle School for two and a half years. She then worked as the assistant director for special education at Northeastern School District in York County for almost two years before returning to Carlisle as its director of special education for three years.

During that time, Spielbauer earned a master’s degree in educational leadership along with a superintendent’s letter of eligibility from Shippensburg University. She also participated in a doctoral study program at Widener University.


FBI says it failed to investigate tip on Florida suspect

PARKLAND, Fla. — The FBI received a tip last month that the suspect in the Florida school shooting had a “desire to kill” and access to guns and could be plotting an attack, but agents failed to investigate, the agency said Friday. Florida Gov. Rick Scott called for the FBI director to resign because of the agency’s failure.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the shooting that killed 17 people Wednesday was a “tragic consequence” of the FBI’s missteps and ordered a review of the Justice Department’s processes. He said it’s now clear that the nation’s premier law enforcement agency missed warning signs.

In more evidence that there had been signs of trouble with suspect Nikolas Cruz, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a Friday news conference that his office had received more than 20 calls about him in the past few years.

A person who was close to Cruz called the FBI’s tip line on Jan. 5 and provided information about Cruz’s weapons and his erratic behavior, including his disturbing social media posts. The caller was concerned that Cruz could attack a school.

In a statement, the agency acknowledged that the tip should have been shared with the FBI’s Miami office and investigated, but it was not. The admission came as the agency was already facing criticism for its treatment of a tip about a YouTube comment posted last year. The comment posted by a “Nikolas Cruz” said, “Im going to be a professional school shooter.”

The FBI investigated the remark but did not determine who made it.

The 19-year-old Cruz has been charged with killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, north of Miami.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said the agency was still reviewing its missteps on the January tip. He said he was “committed to getting to the bottom of what happened,” as well as assessing the way the FBI responds to information from the public.

“We have spoken with victims and families and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy,” Wray said in the statement.

Scott on Friday sharply criticized the federal law enforcement agency, calling the FBI’s failure to take action “unacceptable.”

“Seventeen innocent people are dead and acknowledging a mistake isn’t going to cut it,” the governor said. “ ... The families will spend a lifetime wondering how this could happen, and an apology will never give them the answers they desperately need.”

The FBI is already under intense scrutiny for its actions in the early stages of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. President Donald Trump and some congressional Republicans have seized on what they see as signs of anti-Trump bias.

The president has repeatedly slammed the nation’s premier law enforcement agency and its leaders, writing on Twitter that its reputation was in “tatters.”

Also Friday, mourners gathered for the first funeral for a shooting victim, packing the Star of David chapel to remember 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff. From outside the chapel, other mourners strained to hear the voices chanting Jewish prayers and remembering the star soccer player as having “the strongest personality.” She was also remembered as a creative writer with a memorable smile.

At the funeral for 18-year-old Meadow Pollack, her father’s angered boiled over. With more than 1,000 mourners including Scott packed into Temple K’ol Tikvah, Andrew Pollack looked down at the plain pine coffin of his daughter and then told the crowd, “I am very angry and upset about what transpired.”

A day earlier, details of Wednesday’s attack emerged, showing how the assailant moved through the school in just minutes before escaping with the same students he had targeted.

Cruz jumped out of an Uber car and walked toward building 12 of the school, carrying a black duffel bag and a black backpack. He slipped into the building, entered a stairwell and extracted a rifle from his bag, authorities said. He shot into four rooms on the first floor — going back to spray bullets into two of the rooms a second time — then went upstairs and shot a single victim on the second floor.

He ran to the third floor, where according to a timeline released by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, three minutes passed before he dropped the rifle and backpack, ran back down the stairs and blended in with panicked, fleeing students.

Florida state Sen. Bill Galvano, who visited the third floor, said authorities told him it appeared that Cruz tried to fire point-blank out the third-floor windows at students as they were leaving the school, but the high-impact windows did not shatter. Police told Galvano that it was not that difficult to open the windows.

Israel clarified Friday that Cruz never had a gas mask or smoke grenades during the attack, but officers did find a balaclava. The sheriff said his office would be investigating every one of the previous calls about Cruz to see how they were handled.

Authorities have not described any specific motive, except to say that Cruz had been kicked out of the high school, which has about 3,000 students and serves an affluent suburb where the median home price is nearly $600,000. Students who knew him described a volatile teenager whose strange behavior had caused others to end friendships.