Rising Seniors Use Theater to Raise Money for Charity

Posted July 6, 2017 / Last updated July 26, 2017

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Claire Myers, CeCe Zimmermann, rising senior Tommy Curry, Ben Schaubhut, Kaitlin Lombard, pre-freshman Matthew Busenlener, and Katie Zimmermann perform You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown for the residents of Vista Shores assisted living community.

This summer, rising seniors Andrew Busenlener and Garrin Mesa went outside of the box with their Junior Service Project by working with a charity theater organization called Giving Individuals Fabulous Theater (GIFT). GIFT was originally founded in 2013 in California with the mission to bring live theater to those unable to experience it regularly. Entirely run by the volunteer work of students, they perform primarily for assisted living facilities, health care centers, and children’s hospitals. They also perform for the public to help raise money for local charities.

The New Orleans branch of GIFT began last summer with the production of the compiled musical Everything’s Fine in the Morning. From their two public shows, they raised over $1000 for ALS research and the local Steve Gleason Foundation. They also performed at three retirement homes.

Director Andrew Busenlener decided to continue GIFT in New Orleans after performing in Everything’s Fine in the Morning last summer. Andrew recruited Garrin Mesa to be his musical director and choreographer, and the two assembled a cast of Philelectic Society members from local high schools such as Jesuit, St. Mary’s Dominican High School, Haynes Academy, and Ursuline Academy. As GIFT’s second outreach show in New Orleans, Andrew and Garrin brought the full-scale musical You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown to six local retirement homes, including Lambeth House, Chateau Living Center, and more. The show was overwhelmingly popular at each facility, and the residents were deeply moved by the group’s talent and generosity. In addition, they produced a public show that raised over $700 for the American Cancer Society. The entire crew was grateful for the opportunity to use their talents to do good in their community, and they hope to do another show next summer.