DREXEL HILL, Pa. (CBS) — Hundreds came out Tuesday night to support a beloved program for children who some say faces an uncertain future. The issue stems over who owns and should control Summer Stage.
For more than 46 years, Summer Stage has given kids a place to shine, including Upper Darby’s own Tina Fey, but some say politics is getting in the way of drama.
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Hundreds of @UDSummerStage supporters are asking the School Board and @UpperDarbyPA to approve the continued use of @UpperDarbyHigh’s Performing Arts Center – the only home they say they’ve ever known – and independently run their program as a nonprofit foundation. @CBSPhilly pic.twitter.com/QrrwDZNXmf
— Alicia Roberts (@ARobertsCBS) October 12, 2021
The 18-year-old has been performing for Summer Stage for the past five summers.
“It’s been my happy place and somewhere I feel safe,” he said.
It’s the community he says that’s saved him.
“Growing up in a very abusive household and coming from a place where I struggled with a lot of my mental health, Summer Stage most definitely took me out of that dark tunnel,” Jean Lewis said.
— Alicia Roberts (@ARobertsCBS) October 13, 2021
“The arts are how we treat each other and how we feel our emotions,” Summer Stage founder Harry Dietzler said.READ MORE: Doctor Accused Of Hoarding Dead Kittens In Her Freezer
Now, Dietzler says he’s concerned politics is taking center stage despite the program being mostly financially independent and raising a half-million dollars in community donations.
Currently, Upper Darby Township and the school board manage the program.
“It’s time to let Summer Stage fly on its own as an independent program,” Dietzler said.
He’s asking for control to be given to a nonprofit foundation solely focused on running the theater program.
“The community has invested a lot in it and it belongs to the community,” Dietzler said.
But while the township says it doesn’t profit from Summer Stage, they do get community grants and that puts a bit of drama into who should run and fund it.
Many hope the show will find a way to go on.MORE NEWS: Philadelphia Police Searching For Shafeeq Lewis, Accused Of Fatally Shooting 13-Year-Old Boy On Way To School
Officials say they start planning for the 2022 season right after the holidays and need to have this sorted out soon to make sure next summer’s shows happen.