PHS to honor a very special director

A LOT HAS CHANGED over the last half century at Plymouth High School.

Students – and teachers – have come and gone, curricula have changed, games have been won and lost, knowledge shared and more.

The current high school building has stood for more than 50 years, opening in 1967, and among the constants over the years has been one man, doing one thing – Herb Stoltenberg directing the annual high school musical.

Long before anyone at Disney even thought of making it into a movie – and a Disney franchise – of its own, Stoltenberg was making the high school musical an institution and a treasure at PHS.

This weekend, PHS students will be taking to the stage in the Acuity auditorium to perform “42nd Street,” which will be the 50th musical directed by Stoltenberg.

Fittingly, beginning this weekend, the stage in the auditorium – where countless hundreds of student actors, singers and dancers have performed under the watchful eye and learning guidance of Stoltenberg – will have a new name.

Following the performance Saturday night, the stage will be renamed the Herb Stoltenberg Stage, preserving forever an amazing legacy of education and dedication.

Stoltenberg left full-time teaching nine years ago, enjoying a well-deserved retirement, but even in retirement he continues to do one thing that he enjoys immensely and does so well – directing the high school musical.

Over five decades, he has provided students and the community with something of a history of the American musical. The roster of shows he has directed over the years reads like a history of this quintessentially American institution, moving through time from “Anything Goes,” “No, No, Nanette” and “Oklahoma” through “Hello, Dolly,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Once Upon a Mattress” and “All Shook Up” to mention just a few.

Through all those shows, Stoltenberg has imparted a love of performing to his students and created memorable entertainment again and again. Even when directing a particular musical again and again – “Oklahoma” five times, for instance – he has never failed to bring new life, new interest and new joy to the production for himself, his performers and his audience.

To dedicate that many years of one’s life to one pursuit is a rare thing indeed. To do it with the passion, the joy and the enthusiasm that Herb Stoltenberg has brought to it each and every year, each and every time, is an even rarer thing.

He has shared and passed on that passion, joy and enthusiasm to all his students, giving them a sense of purpose and accomplishment that has helped to mold them into better people – the true definition of a great teacher.

Renaming the stage in his honor is a fitting recognition. May he continue to direct great shows and great performers on that stage for many more years – and may that legacy continue on, on that stage under the direction of whoever eventually succeeds him.

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