Photo mystery solved

October 27, 2013
Peters Township Thespian Troupe members were, from left, Charles Duncombe, Carla DaPra, Sandi Moses and Jim Carper.

All the world may be a stage and all its people players, as William Shakespeare wrote, but only a few of us end up in starring roles. These four young people did during their years at Peters Township High School.

We heard from dozens of people last week who knew these actors, and those who couldn’t name them at least recognized the brickwork in the background.

“The photo was taken at Peters Township High School in 1972 on the day following the first Theatre Awards Ceremony,” Barry N. Wood wrote to us in an email. Wood was hired by the district in 1971 as its drama director and established Thespian Troupe No. 185.

“We staged eight different productions that year, and I decided that the students and the community needed to come together and celebrate the incredible commitment and accomplishments of the students and came up with the idea of a ceremony similar to the Tony and Oscar awards.

“The students in the photo are Charles Duncombe and Carla DaPra, who won the Best Actor and Actress Awards that year, and Sandi Moses and Jim Carper, who won the prestigious Hall of Fame Awards.”

Sadly, only two of these former students survive. Carla DaPra Morasca “lost her battle with breast cancer shortly after her daughter, Jenna Morasca, was declared the winner on the television series ‘Survivor,’” Sherida-Jayne Glover informed us. Carla Morasca, 48, of Bridgeville, died Nov. 19, 2003. Her obituary noted she had won several awards for her cooking skills and was an avid volunteer in local schools and her community.

Sandra Moses Shindler died May 20, 2010. She was a fine arts major at Carnegie-Mellon University and was active in the theater in Lake Tahoe for 10 years. She spent the last 25 years of her life in Corvallis, Ore., where, according to her obituary, “she was an accomplished artist and a talented, creative individual who touched the lives of many who knew her.”

Carper’s sister, Bonnie Lushen, called her brother in Simi Valley, Calif., to let him know that his picture was on the front page of the Observer-Reporter. He then contacted us, and told us a little about the unusual twists and turns his life has taken in the past 40 years. Carper went on from the high school stage to earn bachelor’s degrees in speech and English at Westminster College and a master’s degree in theater design from Northern Illinois University.

He landed in the business world, however, working for a number of years in Ohio and California for Farmers’ Insurance. He was later ordained as a deacon in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is currently the director of marketing and development at Holy Name of Jesus School, a Catholic K-8 school in South Central Los Angeles.

He and his wife, Teresa, have a daughter, Angela, who is married to actor Michael Lanahan.

“Seeing the picture was bittersweet,” Carper called to say. “We were all very good friends. Sandi and I were classmates, and Chuck and Carla were a year behind us.” Carper said the seniors staged “Dracula” that year, and that Wood cast him as the lead in “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” his first real role.

Wood “was always able to see the talent in people,” Carper said. “He was the person who found it and encouraged it ... and gave us the ability to stand in front of one person, or a thousand, and communicate. These are the skills I learned from him that made me successful in other areas.”

Duncombe caught the theater bug in high school and apparently never recovered. He is a writer, director and designer who won the 2009 LA Weekly Theater Awards and received the Queen of the Angels Award for his contributions to Los Angeles theater. In 2010, he was nominated for an LA Weekly Theater Award for his adaptation of “The Trojan Women,” and in 2011 for Best Production Design for “Paradise Park.” Along with Frédérique Michel, he won the 2011 Award for Best Translation for their version of “The Marriage of Figaro.” His most recent play, “Caged,” premiered at City Garage in February.

Wood said Thespian Troupe No. 185 is still in existence at Peters Township High School, and the theater awards ceremony is still held every year. The trophies are now called “The Barry” in honor of Wood.

Park Burroughs has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1972. He is the winner of numerous state and regional awards for feature, column and editorial writing. He is the author of two books, “Enter, With Torches: Recollections of a Grumpy Old Editor,” and "Washington County Murder and Mayhem." He retired in September 2012 but continues to contribute to the O-R’s news pages.

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