Press Release: $2.5 Mil. Commitment to Summer Stage

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October 19, 2021


UPPER DARBY, PA: Today, Mayor Barbarann Keffer announced an unprecedented $2.5 million commitment to the Township program known as “Upper Darby Summer Stage”. These funds will secure up-to-500 full scholarships annually for Upper Darby residents to participate in the nationally renowned theater arts program. The ten-year commitment also ensures the Upper Darby High School Performing Arts Center will remain the home of the program.

Upper Darby’s first Mayor, Sonny Kane green-lit the program in 1975 and after its first successful season said, “There are alternatives for those not attracted or oriented to sports. Our new summer program called Summer Stage has been very successful.” Since that time, the Township has pursued excellence through this program. Mayor Keffer’s announcement guarantees not only the future of the program but also finally solidifies the promise of inclusiveness and equitable access for all.

“The Summer Stage program is an invaluable public trust and that is why we have worked so hard to put together a plan that preserves, protects, and grows the program even in the wake of Mr. Dietzler’s retirement,” said Mayor Keffer. “The Township extends its sincere thanks to Harry for his many decades of service. I am truly grateful for his vast contributions to our community and that is why our plan offers him full artistic control for as long as he wishes to participate. Now more than ever, it is critically important that all kids, regardless of their families’ financial situation, get to experience the magic of Upper Darby Summer Stage.”

The administration’s proposal would fund up-to-500 annual scholarships to be awarded proportionally throughout the seven Township Council Districts to ensure equity of access for all students. The current in-district program fee is $250 per student. The proposal also includes a partnership with the Upper Darby School District worth an estimated $125,000 per year to secure the High School’s Performing Arts Center and to offset ongoing maintenance and necessary long term capital investments in the facility. Under the plan, the Upper Darby Arts and Education Foundation ("Foundation") would administer the program with full artistic, personnel, and financial control based on their own program fees, ticket prices, fundraising, and internal management capacity. In order to safeguard the taxpayer’s historic and future investments and interest in the program, the proposal would give the Township and School District significant representation on the Foundation Board of Directors and create transparency to the public with the Foundation’s bylaws, board, and finances. While there are still significant details to be worked out and the proposal would need final sign-off from all three parties, the Township’s Chief Administrative Officer expressed optimism about the process.

“It’s truly been an honor to work with Harry Dietzler these past two years, particularly in overcoming the challenges presented by the pandemic to ensure a strong 46th season,” said Vincent Rongione, Upper Darby’s Chief Administrative Officer. “If we can get through that together, I am confident we can get through this too. Obviously, it was disappointing when they chose to take the negotiations public but Mayor Keffer’s commitment to delivering for the students and the community has never waivered. She told us to stay positive and find a way to make sure the program stays in Upper Darby and goes on for decades to come.” Rongione continued, “The ball is really in the Foundation’s court because this proposal addresses every one of their stated concerns and is a homerun for the community. I sincerely hope that cooler heads prevail and we can all begin planning for a fabulous season 47 of Upper Darby Summer Stage.”

Mayor Keffer continued, “The School Board and the district administration have always been great partners and friends to Upper Darby Summer Stage. I am grateful for their commitment to the program and their focus on staying positive and doing what is in the best interest of the community.”