The spark of an idea
In the late 1980’s the Warren Consolidated School district began planning for a magnet theatre arts program that would be available as an elective for high school students in the district.
In 1990 the Theatre Arts Performance Project (TAPP) began its first classes on the campus of Warren High School, offering a three year course of study. The program focused on an exploration of different aspects of theatre studies.
A few years later Warren High school was combined with Mott High School and the building was surplussed to the city and turned into the Warren Community Center, leaving the future of the TAPP program uncertain.
A strong foundation
In 1998, Warren Consolidated Schools had the foresight to begin planning and construction on a new, state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center on the campus of Sterling Heights High School for use by the burgeoning arts and music programs in the district.
In the mean time, Artistic Director Jonathan Gillespie continued to teach and delight the Warren Consolidated community through theatre by inspiring students, parents, and alumni to make each production year more impressive than the one that preceded it, constantly striving to new heights, even while the operation was scattered between several different buildings.
In just a few short years, the TAPP gained national recognition, with students competing and performing at the International Thespian Festival. During this time a scholarship is created and named for one of the program’s founders, Betty D’Armond, to be awarded each year to the graduating senior with the greatest overall contribution, a tradition that continues today.
A new home
With the closure of Warren High, the Theatre Arts Performance Project was moved to a new location on the campus of Sterling Heights high School, next to the in-progress performing arts center.
Construction was completed in the spring of 2000 and the building hosted its inaugural performance: TAPP’s spectacular production of Peter Pan.
The new WCS Performing Arts Center would go on to become the standard in Michigan by which other high schools judged their facilities, with many districts following the lead of Warren Consolidated Schools in the years after the PAC’s completion.
Theatre in the new millennium
In 2001, TAPP expanded from three years to a four year program with addition of new staff and new areas of study and the decision was made to change the name of program to better reflect its growth and offerings, and TAPP became the Warren Consolidated School of Performing Arts, or WCSPA.
Subsequent years would see the program triple in size, adding two additional scholarship opportunities for graduating seniors and doubling the number of staff members as students continued going on to great success.
To date, WCSPA and TAPP students and staff, with the generous support of the community, local businesses, and school district, have produced over 200 plays, musicals, dance concerts, cabarets, showcases, and studio performances, and WCSPA students have been awarded more than $8,000,000.00 in scholarship offers for collegiate theatre programs, breaking a national record in 2020 with a staggering $2,395,000.00 in scholarship offers at the Michigan Thespian Festival, setting a benchmark for quality that is known across the state.
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