Musicals - The Linden Summer Playhouse

The Linden Summer Playhouse
Tom Pedas - Founder/Director


In 1979 Tom Pedas founded the Linden Summer Theater, a non-profit theater organization for ages 13-22 which subsequently became the Linden Summer Playhouse. Pedas served as its Producer, Vocal Music Director and Orchestra Conductor from 1979 to 1985 for the following productions.

West Side Story (1985)
Hello Dolly (1984)
The Music Man (1983)
Finian's Rainbow (1982)
Bye Bye Birdie (1981)
Fiddler of the Roof (1980)
Oliver (1979)

The Linden Summer Playhouse continued until 1997 when it ceased productions. However it continues to benefit students through its scholarship programs for students interested in music theater and dance. Andy King serves as President of the organization.

[Music Man]  [Oliver] 
[Bill Perlach]  [Fiddler] 
[Hello Dolly]  [Music Man] 

Teens to play ‘Fiddler On the Roof’ in Linden

by Mary Epperson, Daily Journal - Friday , June 25, 1980


LINDEN - What do you get when you mix more than 100 eager junior high and high school students, an award winning musical and a dedicated music teacher? According to Tom Pedas, who teaches music in the Linden public schools, you get lots of fun, long-lasting friendships and an experience that is unforgettable.

The students, comprising the Linden Summer Theater company, will present ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ July 31, Aug 1 and 2 at the high school. This is the group's second season, which opened with ‘Oliver’last year.

Its success was evidenced by the return of some 90 percent of last year's players for auditions this summer,said Pedas, who originated the student productions. The teen-agers hail from Linden High, Roselle Catholic, Mother Seton, Clark, and others.

Pedas has long been known for his expertise of working with children in music and theater. Last year he was named Master Music Teacher of the Year by the New Jersey Music Educators Association - an award which, he said, is "one of the greatest honors that can be bestowed on an educator."

"I was thrilled when I got the award and very surprised. I thought it would probably go to someone older, someone who had been in the profession longer than I."

Pedas is one of those teachers that can't seem to leave work behind in the school building at the end of the day. Even in the summer he spends time working with students - and the Linden Summer Theater is just one example.

"I got the idea for the theater a few years ago," he said. "Some of my students, especially those who had moved to junior and senior high school, asked me about starting some kind of summer chorus. I thought about it and remembered the theater I started during my junior year in college."

Pedas points out the fight to get clearance and funds for the summer theater was "worth the battle." Apparently it took a lot of convincing for the recreation department to approve his idea.

"They seemed to think that no kid would want to spend his summer vacation rehearsing for a play," Pedas explained. "I have to admit I was really surprised when more than 80 kids showed up for auditions. This year more than 125 students showed up for auditions."

"I know it sounds like I'm busy all the time and I am," Pedas admitted. "But I love it. Working with these kids and seeing them accomplish something makes my life worthwhile. That's why I became a teacher. It's not just an eight hour a day job for me, it's my life."

Giving up Their Nights for the Stage

By Ruth Mason,The Daily Journal - Tuesday, July 26, 1983

LINDEN - They could be spending their time playing softball, joining their friends on leisurely twilight picnics, or just hanging out doing nothing in particular. But 100 Union County youngsters have chosen another way to spend their summer evenings.

Every weeknight since early June, they have trooped to the Linden High School auditorium, where they are criticized, scolded, and cajoled. And they keep coming back for more. They are the cast and crew of the Linden Summer Playhouse's production of Meredith Wilson's ‘The Music Man,’ and to hear them talk, there is nowhere else they would rather be...

What motivates the 55 member cast, ages 9 to 21, to give its summer evenings over to difficult rehearsals and demanding directors and choreographers? The kids say it's the thrill of performing and the special air that surrounds the playhouse. Their parents contend it has something to do with Pedas' "magic touch."

" He does amazing things with the children," one parent said

"It's hard work," said chorus member JoAnn Hallgowski, 17, during a recent rehearsal. "But in the end, you felt good when you're up there giving people joy."

"She adds: "Tom, doesn't treat us like kids. We're treated like actors and actresses. We take the criticism and learn a lot."

While her fellow actors are rehearsing a scene on state, 13 year-old Barbie Greco takes a break from her major role as Amaryllis. "I've had stage experience,"said Barbie, who has danced in local ballet performances and was in the chorus in last year's Linden Summer Theater production. "So I'm not nervous. But it's a little scary this year because it's the first time I've had talking lines. I'm hoping I'm not going to mess up or anything."

An actor says, ""Everyone says it's like a family," adding the group invariably cries when goodbyes are said after the last performance.

Pedas Loves Being Linden's Answer to ‘The Music Man

By Doug Harris,The Citizen - Wednesday, March 2, 1988

Tom Pedas might just be called Linden's Music man - and for very good reason. The founder of the Linden Summer Playhouse, Tom is also the vocal music director of Linden High School's four singing groups, a full-time music teacher, and vocal music director of the high school's yearly musical productions. The latest musical ‘Barnum, ’was performed just this past week.

"I love teaching - it's in my blood," Tom declared. It's obvious this enthusiasm spills over to his students. Under Tom's direction, the High School Concert Choir has won the highest award given for international choral competition at the Montreal International Music Festival. At the Heritage Music Festival at Newport, Rhode Island, the group received a "superior" rating for national choral competition. Tom's Madrigal Singers have likewise won honors in just about every competition they enter.

"My greatest reward is to take someone who has the potential for talent and give that student the opportunity to develop," Tom said, adding," It is so wonderful to see kids change and gain self confidence."

Tom's talent, combined with a pleasant nature and sense of fairness, have a lot to do with the student's interest and success. "One time I caught a student doing something he shouldn't have been doing - it was serious enough that he could have been suspended. I said, "I'll give you a break - if you come to boys choir for one week, I'll pretend I didn't see what happened." Tom's grin finished the story. The boy stayed in the group for the entire year, then auditioned for the select choir and made it. " He worked hard like everyone else. It's fun to work with them because they do like to work hard."

[News reprint] "I'm looking to do more things on my own,"Tom said.Outside of his activities with the high school Tom is directing the Scotch Plains Players in a production of ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ which begins April 16. Another recent activity is acting."I'm getting back into it these past two years. My only other acting experience was in college." He appeared in ‘Shenandoah’ and ‘Oklahoma’ in the Union County Arts Center in Rahway, and in ‘Camelot’last summer as part of the Plays in The Park in Edison.

Tom has been a lover of music since the fourth grade, much to his parents' chagrin. "They said I should never see music as more than a hobby. They wanted me to take over the grocery store or open a restaurant," he explained. Since his childhood days in western Pennsylvania, Tom has traveled the world with his music. He once directed a concert for the president of Greece, and has performed with Peter, Paul and Mary.

Tom seems to genuinely enjoy his work with Linden's students. For ten years he taught general music to the first through sixth grades, then in 1983 assumed his current position at the High School. A highlight is the yearly musical production. "   For ‘Barnum’ we started before Thanksgiving - holding auditions, getting the music in place. Past plays have included ‘Grease, ’ ‘South Pacific,’ and ‘Annie.’

After founding the Linden Summer Playhouse in 1979, he directed, produced and served as vocal music director and orchestra conductor for such productions as ‘West Side Story, ’ ‘Hello Dolly,’ ‘The Music Man,’ ‘Oliver, ’ and ‘Finian's Rainbow.’ For these plays he successfully recruited young people from the area. "After awhile, it just got to be too much," Tom said. When he resigned in 1985, four people were hired to replace him.

Tom's inspiration comes from a choral director he met in his own high school in Pennsylvania. “He did a lot for me, and I always sort of patterned myself after him,” he said. No doubt many who love music today can say the same thing about Tom Pedas.

Tom Pedas, The Celebration Singers and Children's Chorus


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