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The Parnassian Society – Columbia High School’s Drama Club, Maplewood, New Jersey


            The Parnassian Society was originally established in 1895 as a poetry recitation club. By 1927 it became a drama club headed by beloved Columbia High School Social Studies teacher Mildred Memory and two colleagues. Miss Memory also went on to establish The Strollers, Maplewood’s community theatre group. The Parnassian Society has been operating continually for the last 130 years and, in 2004, was provided a dedicated space when the Black Box Theater was built at Columbia High School. Parnassian productions span a wide range of genres - comedies, dramas and theatre pieces that raise our students’ and audiences' social consciousness and challenge issues of tolerance and understanding in our society – in addition to providing great entertainment.


            The Parnassian stage crew has a long-standing reputation for excellence in terms of the technical aspect of producing plays and musicals. Understanding the importance of theatrical lighting, sound, projection, set design and construction, props, costumes and publicity are all part of the training that goes into understanding how a production “gets off the ground.”   A number of Parnassian graduates have gone on to work as professionals in theatre, including Jake Platt, whose production of Tar Baby just took a "Fringe First" in Edinburgh 2015. Additionally, Sophie Quist (2009) has become an extraordinary professional stage manager.


            The Parnassian production of The Fantasticks in 2007 combined the resources and talent of the Art, Music and Drama departments at Columbia High School.  Many of the actors who audition for our productions in the early fall are what we consider “diamonds in the rough” - very talented students who just haven’t had the opportunity to act!

Other notable performing arts alumni include:


  • David Javerbaum - author, screenwriter and writer for the Jon Stewart Show

  • Roy Scheider – Actor

  • Frank Langella – Actor

  • Joel Silver (1970) - Producer of films such as Lethal Weapon 4 and The Matrix.[25]

  • Howard Thies (1980) - Theatrical Lighting Designer, two time winner of the Obie Award and Bessie Award for sustained excellence in Lighting Design

  • Jonathan "Smokey" Baer (1968) - Legendary National Public Radio producer

  • Bruce Feirstein - journalist, author (Real Men Don't Eat Quiche,) screenwriter James Bond movies.

  • Claude Coleman Jr. (1986) - Musician, drummer for Ween amongst other work.

  • Robert Verdi (1986) - Television personality

  • Ahmed Best - Actor; most widely known for playing Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars movie series.[25]

  • Zach Braff (1993) - Actor/Producer/Writer/Director; leading actor on the television series Scrubs and producer / director / writer / star of Garden State.[25]

  • Kiki Smith (did not graduate) - Artist; prominent sculptor, the MoMA held a major retrospective of her work in 2003-4

  • Elizabeth Shue – Actor

  • Andrew Shue - Actor

  • Jonathan Tiersten - Actor in the Sleepaway Camp movies

  • Eric Hudson – Musician and Grammy nominee 2007

  • Gracie (film) (2007): Columbia and Columbia's Varsity Soccer Team were featured in Gracie, a film loosely based on the lives of alumni Elizabeth Shue and Andrew Shue; the film was directed by Elizabeth Shue's husband, Davis Guggenheim, and produced by the Shues (who also acted in it). [32]

  • Lauryn Hill attended Columbia High School and shot the music video for her 1998 release The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in the second floor bathroom of the school's "A" wing.

  • Garden State (film) (2004): The school is both shown and referenced in this Zach Braff film, which was partly filmed in neighboring South Orange, New Jersey.



Other performing opportunities include the annual Shakespeare Festival - running since 2001!


 - ESTD. 1895 -

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