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Friedman a staple at academy

January 9, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

When North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts students take the stage for performances such as "The Nutcracker," they are adorned with a labor of love.

Marcia Friedman, costume mistress extraordinaire, has been responsible for garbing the school's talented performers for years.

In a room alongside her classroom are rows upon rows of costumes for the ballet, which have been used time and again by students through the years.

Article Photos

Marcia Friedman


Friedman is in the middle of her 40th and final year at the school to which she came in 1979.

She has seen it its ups and downs, with the most recent years being the biggest and best.

When Friedman arrived, the school, though relatively new, was not the waiting-list school is has become.

"There were a lot of fights. It was a whole different clientele of kids because it was a general public elementary school. The arts obviously changed things," Friedman said.

In 2000, there were more than 100 portable classrooms, and it was like that for more than two years as the facility was renovated and rebranded as an arts school.

It took a while for the school to take off as the students and culture changed to one dedicated to the arts of all kinds.

"When we became an arts school with (former principal) Dr. Douglas Santini, there were rough years there, too," Friedman said. "Then people started to see the transition take place and what was happening. Now, there's a waiting list to get in."

When the school decided to start doing "The Nutcracker," there were only about 30 students who took part. Friedman got involved by making the costumes, some of which are still being used.

She also got Santini to play Uncle Drosselmeyer, and it has become a traditional part for the principal, passed on to Thomas Millins this year.

Through the years, more people became involved in the ballet, which meant more costumes and, while many of them are now purchased from a company, there are still some that Friedman and her crew make.

That is especially true for the springtime productions, which require much costuming time and imagination.

Friedman must retire by state law because she has used her Deferred Retirement Option Program benefit, plus three extensions. She said she wants to continue on as a costumer on a volunteer basis.

She will leave the school in better shape than when she arrived, and is confident the growth and improvement will continue in all phases.

"The school has improved in every way. The kids, the school, the academics and the arts meshed in with it has done a world of difference for the kids who are here," Friedman said. "It's been quite a journey. I spent half my life here."



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