Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater
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Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  294 ratings  ·  90 reviews
Friday Night Lights meets Glee—the incredible and true story of an extraordinary drama teacher who has changed the lives of thousands of students and inspired a town.

Why would the multimillionaire producer of Cats, Phantom of the Opera, and Miss Saigon take his limo from Manhattan to the struggling former steel town of Levittown, Pennsylvania, to see a high school produc...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 26th 2013 by Riverhead Hardcover
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Judie
I don’t use similes very often, but I can’t help comparing DRAMA HIGH to an onion. There are some tears, but that’s not the reason. Like an onion, it has many layers, all combining to produce the singular product.
The top layer is the story of Harry S Truman High School in Levittown, Pennsylvania, particularly the theater department, possibly the best in the country. While many schools had drama clubs that did not attract many students, especially not the popular ones, such as the athletes, Tru...more
Richard Kramer
A great teacher, in high school, can be like an author who tells you some of what your own coming story might be. Lou Volpe, who ran the drama program at Truman High School in Levittown, PA for more than forty years, is such a teacher – one whom, even though he has retired, has to be referred to in the present tense, because his impact, on those forty years of students, is ongoing and life-long. His productions of SPRING AWAKENING and LES MISERABLES were so fine that they convinced their produc...more
Dan
Oct 13, 2013 Dan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
It's difficult to be objective with this review, seeing as how I'm a former student of Lou Volpe's (1996 through 1998, years not covered in this book). I feel very strongly about Lou and I can say, without hyperbole, that he had a tremendous impact on my life - a recurring theme here. I may ramble and reminisce a little here.

What I loved discovering here is how cyclical Lou's life at Truman was, even back when he was teaching English. Students always felt the same way about him, he always devel...more
Susannah
I was so hoping that in Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater I had found the successor to one of my very favorite books, The Stuff of Dreams: Behind the Scenes of an American Community Theater by Leah Hager Cohen. And while the theater parts of this book came close, the narrative was dragged down by the other stories - Sokolove's in relation to his hometown of Levittown, Pennsylvania, and the state of arts education in the U.S....more
Julie Ekkers
I felt like the topic of this book--meaningful and transformative high school experiences and teachers--was a five-star topic, done in a three-star way. (And I think I liked it as much as did because of the difference the theater productions of which I was a part in high school made to me. I think if you did theater in high school, and if you loved it, you will at least like this book because it will take you right back there.) Drama High is the story of the theater program at Truman High is Lev...more
Hank Stuever
The author is a friend; I gave it a very solid 4+ stars and rounded up to 5, because that’s what friends are for. So there’s your disclosure, now here’s your honest review:

Many features reporters (including this one) have delved into the “making of the high school play” story as a means of telling an epic narrative, intending to capture something fraught and beautiful about teenagers and teachers and dedication and art. In the narrative, it is essential to note that the arts are always on the l...more
Jennifer
Summary:
Sokolove is a former student of Lou Volpe, the drama teacher at Harry S. Truman High School. From this inside look, we get biographical looks at several students as they interact through Volpe's last years before retirement. Along with themes of prejudice in every possible version you can think of (including father's calling their son's gay because they are in theater instead of football), Sokolove explores the confidence and success that Volpe encourages and brings out in his students....more
David
Drama High is a profile of the end of the career of a legendary high school theatre director, Lou Volpe who is an extraordinary inspiration in an otherwise unspectacular suburb that has been decaying from its heyday. While not as well constructed as some biographies or education exposes, Drama High was a rather enjoyable read that is provoking me into wanting to be involved.

There are many things that are going wrong. We have a community that is economically depressed after the steel manufacturin...more
Julia
Lou Volpe the Drama teacher at Truman High School in Levittown, PA regularly does productions that no other high school theater will touch: Spring Awakening, RENT and Les Miz. In fact, MTI often “tests” difficult high school versions of their plays at Truman High School in Levittown.

Lou Volpe has taught there forty years and he has some cache there. He can get away with things and touchy content because the community and the administration trust him.

But this book could have easily been much sh...more
Bookish Jen
There are good teachers. There are bad teachers. There teachers somewhere in between. And then there is Lou Volpe. And journalist Michael Sokolove deftly tells Lou Volpe’s journey and how he has affected his students and their town in the book Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater.

Lou Volpe is the drama teacher at Harry S. Truman High School located in the struggling, blue collar town Levittown in Pennsylvania. Truman High is mo...more
Liz Murphy
In Drama High, Michael Sokolove returns to his high school alma mater, Truman High, in rundown Levittown, Pennsylvania to give tribute to teacher, Lou Volpe, who ran the school’s nationally recognized drama program for more than forty years. We all remember high school and let’s face it…being a teenager ain’t easy. The Truman kids are an anomaly in the drama world in which the most successful drama programs are from well-funded, upper-class schools, but Truman High kids are anything but and this...more
V. Briceland
Lou Volpe, beloved drama instructor of Levittown's acclaimed and award-winning public high school drama program, is very probably a five-star teacher. Former student Michael Sokolove's account of him, however, is definitely not five-star writing.

Sokolove narrates his tale in a breathless, fawning style that attempts to mimic journalistic rigor by employing a full-frontal assault with the eternal present tense. Yet he also sets up the book with so many framing devices (I stopped counting at about...more
Chris Aylott
The cheesy blurb for this would be, "If you want to see what Glee looks like in the real world..." and that's pretty much accurate. Though recently retired, teacher Lou Volpe has a credible claim to have been the greatest high school drama teacher who ever lived. Over more than four decades, he took plays to national showcases, launched the first high school productions of Les Miserables, Rent, and Spring Awakening, and changed generations of students' lives.

Sokolove was one of Volpe's first stu...more
David
Drama High is a profile of the end of the career of a legendary high school theatre director, Lou Volpe who is an extraordinary inspiration in an otherwise unspectacular suburb that has been decaying from its heyday. While not as well constructed as some biographies or education exposes, Drama High was a rather enjoyable read that is provoking me into wanting to be involved.

There are many things that are going wrong. We have a community that is economically depressed after the steel manufacturin...more
Anne
This is not Glee or Smash, it is the real deal. Go behind the scenes at Harry S Truman High School and meet Lou Volpe. Lou has taught high school drama and theater for over 40 years and his productions have put the school on the map. For anyone who has ever acted on a high school or college stage or for those who have ever done community theater, this is a great read. Volpe guides his students through rehearsals with tough love, never pulling punches, delivering the truth but receiving total res...more
Teresa Cooper
Must read for anyone passionate about theater and especially, youth theater. Well written.
Danielle Mohlman
I have a theory that no matter how much high school sucked for us creatives, we each had at least one teacher that inspired us to keep doing what we’re doing. For me, it was Ms. Yu. She introduced me to the concept of feminism before I knew what to label it. She showed me that great literature could be subversive.

For many high schoolers, that teacher was Lou Volpe. Sure, Sokolove does make some dramaturgical missteps — Frank Wedekind’s Spring’s Awakening isn’t the obscure text Sokolove makes it...more
Melissa
As a fan of theater and musicals, the most captivating parts of this book for me were the sections that describe the process of putting together a play. This book is well-written and well-paced. The author does a great job of explaining exactly what makes Lou Volpe, as well as Truman High and its students, special, but I feel that he sometimes did this at the expense of putting down other unnamed drama programs, making sweeping and, at times, unfair generalizations about what other high schools...more
Laura
The subtitle of this book summarizes it nicely. Sokolove, an alum of Truman High School in Levittown, PA, tells the story of its exceptionally successful drama program - unique in that its participants are basically blue-collar kids, not necessarily college-bound, but the program regularly sends Main Stage plays to the National Thespian Society's annual festival at University of Nebraska. Its muse: longtime drama teach Lou Volpe. Sokolove does a great job of balancing information on the teacher,...more
Mary
this is an amazing book about the crucial role creative teachers play in the lives of teens--and how much more difficult that role has become these days.
What a cast of real people to meet--like drama teacher Lou Volpe's favorite painting, "Guernica", the plays he brings to Truman High and the people of Levittown, Pennsylvania demonstrate "the enormous power of art to explain and ultimately defeat man's most evil impulses--a defiance of the world's darkest forces."
You'll never forget these peopl...more
Kerry
I give this non fiction book 4.5 stars. Even though I was never interested in theater performance for myself, I loved the author's descriptions of what it's like to be a member of Truman High School Drama, in a former steel town in Pennsylvania. The drama troupe is led by the legendary teacher Lou Volpe, who challenges his students to go well beyond what they believe they are capable of in terms of acting, singing, interpreting, and more. Volpe's program is selected by big-time Broadway (yes, TH...more
Rachel Bussel
In Drama High, Michael Sokolove returns to his high school, now called Harry S. Truman High School, to profile drama teacher Lou Volpe, who, despite budget cuts and a flagging economy, has brought acclaim and popularity to his classes and spawned several generations of drama students. While never fawning, Sokolove makes it clear that Volpe has had a disproportionate effect on many of his students, including the author, who never took a drama class. By pushing his students to go deep into the mat...more
Paula
I received this book from the Goodreads First Reads giveaway program. Thank you author/publisher for the opportunity to read and review your new book.

Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater by Michael Sokolove is the story of Lou Volpe and his students at Truman High in Levittown, Pennsylvania. The author Michael Sokolove is a former student that follows Lou Volpe in the last two years of his teaching career. Lou Volpe started out...more
Nathaniel Popkin
Reprinted from my review in: Art Attack/Philly.com

The joke of the title of Michael Sokolove’s captivating new book Drama High (Riverhead Books, for sale September 26) is that among the theater students at Truman High School in Levittown, there is very little drama. This isn’t a book about a real world Glee.

It is, however, a deeply, and lovingly, reported work about the teacher, Lou Volpe, who over four decades has turned Truman into the nation’s leading school for the production of challenging B...more
Danielle
One of my friends saw this book reviewed somewhere and told me about it because she thought it seemed like something I would enjoy. She was right. I loved this book. Michael Sokolove takes a look at the 40 year career of his high school drama teacher, Lou Volpe. Volpe has elevated the drama program at Harry S. Truman High School in hard-scrabble Levittown, Pennsylvania to its highest heights. Their productions consistently win national awards, and it is Volpe's program to whom Music Theatre Inte...more
Jill
I can't say enough about how enthralled I was with this true story. I actually prefer non-fiction to fiction these days, because a well written non-fiction book can be so inspiring and motivational. This is one of those "inspiring" true stories that will resonate with you for a long time.

Michael Sokolove weaves a compelling story through his insightful reporting of the theater program that Lou Volpe crafted at Harry S Truman High School over a period of 4 decades. The story is even more meaningf...more
Eric Baum
The subtitle in this book says it all. Set it a decaying Pennsylvania town that has never recovered from the loss of blue-collar industries, but where almost half the students take at least one drama class in high school simply because of the dedication and honesty that Lou Volpe has poured into his program over the last 40 years, Sokolove demonstrates how the arts truly can touch students in ways that won't comprehend for years. Lou's program became so well-known and respected that Cameron Mack...more
Lissa
It is a very rare opportunity to repay a teacher who positively changed your life and the lives of many others. Michael Sokolove does this and more in his engaging and heartfelt book. Lou Volpe taught Sokolove in a high school English class and ultimately encouraged his writing skills. Volpe went on to become a much revered Theater director and drama teacher in a town where culture and the arts did not typically excel. Over the course of his tenure, he took students of various backgrounds and in...more
Saleena Davidson
Sadly, this book was very disappointing for me.....I couldn't make myself finish....it seemed interesting set in a nearby town (that I live in, but am not from) but the tone of the author came off as very patronizing....this sad, sad town that has nothing in it worth anything but somehow has this amazing drama program......just seemed like it could have been made a bit more interesting and a bit less....."aren't you glad you don't live here"?
Eric Swanson
"Drama High" tells the story of Lou Volpe, a legendary drama teacher at Truman High in Levittown, Pa., and his students. The book focuses on Volpe's productions of two controversial shows: the drama Good Boys and True and the musical Spring Awakening.
As long as author Michael Sokolove sticks to showing us Volpe's effect on his students, the book is absorbing and even inspiring. But far too often, Sokolove tells us what we ought to feel and think instead of letting us figure it out for ourselves....more
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