Weekly Feature



2018-08-08 / Front Page

Reunion show to mark 50th anniversary of theater workshop

by ALAN RIZZO Editor


Music director Ron Swick, foreground, and director Samuel Starr watch a rehearsal of a Ken-Ton Musical Theater Workshop show at Kenmore West High School during the early years of the workshop’s existence. Alumni of the workshop will present a reunion show on Aug. 18 to honor Starr’s memory. He created the workshop in 1968 and died in 2011. Music director Ron Swick, foreground, and director Samuel Starr watch a rehearsal of a Ken-Ton Musical Theater Workshop show at Kenmore West High School during the early years of the workshop’s existence. Alumni of the workshop will present a reunion show on Aug. 18 to honor Starr’s memory. He created the workshop in 1968 and died in 2011. In 1968, when theater opportunities were few for high school students in Western New York, Kenmore West High School English and drama teacher Samuel Starr founded an organization called the Ken-Ton Musical Theater Workshop, later known as the Kenmore Summer Musical Theater Workshop, or KTMTW.

Every summer for 36 years, KTMTW gave roughly 75 students ages 14 to 21 living in the Village of Kenmore, Town of Tonawanda and beyond a chance to work on stage and backstage at Kenmore West, and was the first summer youth theater production company in Western New York, according to Starr’s daughter, Syndi Starr-Buscaglia.


Kenmore West High School English and drama teacher Samuel Starr, center, known to many as Jerry, directs a Ken-Ton Musical Theater Workshop show at Kenmore West High School during the early years of the workshop’s existence. Starr, who founded the workshop in 1968 and died in 2011, will be honored through a reunion show that workshop alumni will present on Saturday, Aug. 18. Kenmore West High School English and drama teacher Samuel Starr, center, known to many as Jerry, directs a Ken-Ton Musical Theater Workshop show at Kenmore West High School during the early years of the workshop’s existence. Starr, who founded the workshop in 1968 and died in 2011, will be honored through a reunion show that workshop alumni will present on Saturday, Aug. 18. And while some of its alumni have gone on to work professionally in theater, on Broadway and in film, Starr-Buscaglia said her father’s goal was simply to provide a space for students interested in theater, music and technical arts to be themselves, and to learn the ropes of theater by doing.

“KTMTW and everything my father did gave kids a safe place to be who they were,” she said.

Samuel Starr, known to many as Jerry, died in 2011, and at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, Starr-Buscaglia and her siblings, their relatives and a host of KTMTW alumni who performed in shows in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s will return to Kenmore West’s Starr Auditorium for a reunion show to honor his memory and work.

The show marks the 50th anniversary of KTMTW’s creation and will feature alumni performing numbers from musicals they were a part of as teenagers, and telling stories about their experiences in the workshop.

Laura and Scott Waggoner, who will be performing “Somewhere” from “West Side Story” — they met in 1990 while performing the song in a KTMTW production — credited the workshop and Starr with having a significant positive impact on their lives.

“Performing on stage under the direction of Jerry Starr gave us confidence, helped us develop lifelong friendships and shaped who we are as human beings,” the Waggoners wrote in an email to The Bee. “We also volunteer in our community as Mr. Starr did when he took care of children in the nursery during Christmas Eve services at local churches, served food to hungry families at soup kitchens on Christmas Day, and when he began the Jerry Starr Annual Sleepout, which continues today and benefits the homeless.”

A total of 50 alumni will participate in the 50th anniversary show, as well as 22 of their children and grandchildren.

They will perform individual songs and ensemble numbers including “Tradition” from “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Trouble” from “The Music Man,” and “We Go Together” from “Grease.” Starr-Buscaglia said a total of 20 musical numbers will be performed, along with memories shared of KTMTW experiences.

Organizers will also be collecting money and raising funds through a basket raffle and 50/50 split drawing to create two one-time scholarships to be awarded to one student from each high school in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District who plans to study the arts or theater in college. Scholarship winners will later be chosen by drama teachers and administrators at Kenmore East and West, according to Starr-Buscaglia.

Starr-Buscaglia, a retired middle school teacher who was in KTMTW shows herself and has performed locally over the years at venues including Artpark, MusicalFare Theatre and Kavinoky Theatre, said the workshop went beyond an educational opportunity and became a family for those involved.

“We were on stage together, we were off stage together, we got in trouble together. Sometimes theater kids are not considered the coolest kids in the world. But we had our tribe,” she said. “For teenagers to find a tribe is a very difficult thing, and when we found each other in KTMTW, that shaped and colored the way our lives progressed.”

Cash and checks will be accepted for the one-time scholarships at the door of the reunion show on Aug. 18. Donations also can be made online at go fundme.com/ktmtw-50th-reunion-scholarship.

Basket raffle and 50/50 split drawing winners will be announced after the show, and winners must be present.

For more information on the 50th anniversary show, contact KTMTW50@gmail.com.

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