Students at the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts captivated audiences in the Black Box Theatre with their performance of Vanishing Point, a musical written by Rob Hartmann and Liv Cummins. The musical comedy consisted of three performers, Reagan Frankhouser as Aimee Semple McPherson, Katie Conlon as Agatha Christie, and Marcella Karam as Amelia Earhart. All three of the actresses are seniors at the high school that have performed in countless productions over the years. However, Vanishing Point was one of their most challenging performances by far. The three actresses had to play their main roles and switch between 17 different characters, such as husbands, friends, and reporters. This unique dynamic made it critical that the actresses master the flow of the play to smoothly transition characters. For Reagan Frankhouser, the challenge of inhabiting multiple characters was one of the most exciting aspects of the performance.
Vanishing Point combines history with comedy, as it brings together three iconic 20th-century women who all famously disappeared. Aimee Semple McPherson, Agatha Christie, and Amelia Earhart work together in the production to unravel their own disappearances and to solve their mysteries. Aimee Semple McPherson was a celebrity evangelist in the 1920s and 1930s that disappeared mysteriously for five weeks in 1926. When McPherson reappeared, she alleged that she was kidnapped but the kidnapping remained unsolved. Agatha Christie was an English writer that disappeared from her home in 1926, reappearing eleven days later at a hotel in Harrogate. Christie did not remember what had happened, but police later determined that she had crashed her car on her way to London and then traveled to Harrogate by train, checking into a hotel with barely any luggage. Lastly, Amelia Earhart was a pilot who disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 during her attempt to fly around the globe. Earhart’s disappearance still remains one of the most discussed twentieth-century mysteries.
Vanishing Point was performed from October 16-26 and concluded with a final performance on November 16th. The vocals of Frankhouser, Conlon, and Karam stunned the audience. The actresses’ alluring performance captured both the hopes and anxieties of these brave women struggling to follow their passions and to make an impact in a male-dominated world.
When asked about the role that the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts plays on the South Side, Frankhouser stated, “I think Charter Arts has impacted the art community greatly. The performances are not just high school performances, but performances in which the actors and actresses are fully invested in telling the story of the show. A lot of the times we perform shows that average high schools would not do, or if we do perform a popular show we add our own creative twist to make it unique to our school. People have very positive things to say about our productions and as a performer and a student at the school, I am honored to have such a positive impact.” Frankhouser’s words ring true, as the playwrights of Vanishing Point attended one of the shows, which rarely occurs with productions. The playwrights provided the actresses with exceptional feedback, emphasizing how much the adaptation of the play delighted them.
As a seasoned actress, Frankhouser’s favorite part about performing is the way each story she tells impacts people. She stated, “In every show, someone has something that they can relate to, and in some cases, these performances are healing for those in the audience.” In many ways, theatre plays an integral role in how we process our emotions as both performers and spectators. Art allows us to empathize with others and to understand new perspectives. Aimee Semple McPherson, Agatha Christie, and Amelia Earhart faced struggles that continue to remain relevant today. These strong, independent women crafted their own identities in a world where the male figures consistently tried to undermine their confidence and successes. Yet, these women displayed immense bravery as they continued to persevere and follow their passions amid adversity. The actresses courageously captured the power of these iconic women, demonstrating their persistence in the face of prejudice and offering models for young women in the audience still facing sexism.
As a senior, Frankhouser has started thinking about her future after graduation. She hopes to go to a school for musical theatre and is currently in the process of auditioning and applying to schools. This year she received the opportunity to teach freshmen on campus and to work closely with classes on productions. The younger students at the school view Frankhouser as both a leader and a mentor on campus and often reach out to her to discuss the program and their future trajectories in the department. While Frankhouser enjoys mentoring others, she humbly states that she would not be where she is today without all of the teachers that have instructed her over the years. In particular, she mentions the role that Ashley Weller has played in her growth and achievements at the high school.
Weller teaches voice and movement to freshman and juniors, as well as a senior seminar class that helps students prepare for auditions. In addition, students in this course write a children’s show and then tour the elementary schools in the community. Frankhouser states, “Mrs. Weller wants you to succeed and will help you get there no matter what. She is very honest and will tell you as it is, but it’s all out of love. She is my biggest mentor at the school and has helped me the most throughout my four years.” It is apparent that the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts has had a significant impact on inspiring youth to pursue their passions in the arts, encouraging them to leave their mark as artists and as members of the arts community, a legacy of which McPherson, Christie, and Earhart would be proud.