The Upper Darby Performing Arts Center was the most ‘fetch’ place to be on Saturday night.
Over 1,000 “Mean Girls” fans filled the PAC for a 10th anniversary screening of the iconic high school featuring the film’s Emmy-winning multi-hyphenate star Tina Fey making a special live appearance. Fey was there to headline a fundraiser to buy a new sound system for the center, and to kick off the 40th season of Summer Stage, a theater program Fey is an alumnus of.
“She’s always been supportive, and her encouragement is there,” said Harry Deitzler, executive director of the PAC.
Dietzler got in touch with Fey last year and asked her to come back and do special appearance, perhaps do some stand-up. The idea snowballed into doing appearing at the PAC to coincide with the 10th anniversary of “Mean Girl’s” release and to start the 40th season of Summer Stage.
As part of the fundraiser, 100 fans were lucky to get tickets for an exclusive meet and greet with the star in the high school’s board room, filled with pizza from Pica’s –Upper Darby’s staple pizza place which famously delivered a pie to Fey during an appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in March.
“I met her and I was shaking so badly,” said Lucy Ashton, an incoming junior at the high school who had Fey autograph her school ID. “She’s so lovely!”
Ashton, 16, became a fan of Fey’s after watching her on “Saturday Night Live,” and then came across “Mean Girls.” She was hoping to ask Fey about her Upper Darby Roots during the very brief encounter.
“I would definitely (have liked to ask) her how Upper Darby influenced her filmmaking decisions for ‘Mean Girls’… and how Upper Darby taught her a lot of things she uses in real life,” said Ashton.
It is no secret that Fey based her film in part on her years at Upper Darby High School. Her character’s name in the movie is Ms. Norbury, named after a current French teacher named Joan Norbury, who, according to Ashton, does not talk about Fey.
“I said she should have brought her report card that lists Norbury as her French teacher and have her sign that,” suggested Lucy’s mother, Penny Starr-Ashton.
Another Upper Darby connection to the film is the flamboyant character Damian, named after one of Fey’s classmates, Damian Holbrook, a senior writer at TV Guide Magazine who was also present to host a Q&A session following the screening.
Before the 7:30 screening, Summer Stage cast members sang the song “Fill the World with Love” from the 1969 musical “Goodbye, Mr. Chips”, a tradition used to close the previous season of Summer Stage Dietzler said Fey used to take part in.
“I hope it touches her heart and makes her feel at home,” he said.
Two sisters from the summer stage program were anxious before their performance.
“I want to see her reaction when we have to sing to her,” said 15-year-old Madeline, who was joined by her sister, Christina, both describing the opportunity as “awesome”.
Fey may be one of Summer Stage’s biggest success stories, but she hasn’t forgotten her roots.
Returning in 1999 for the program’s 25th season, Fey came back in 2004 when “Mean Girls” was released and to be inducted to the high school’s wall of fame. When the school district was on the verge of slashing arts in the schools in 2012, Fey voiced her support to prevent such actions.
At the backbone of this fundraiser is the need to buy a new sound system for the PAC to the tune of $300,000.
Dietzler said it’s “awesome” that a former Summer Stage participant could achieve as much as Fey has.
“It’s overwhelming. We’re in awe when we see something else that she does like doing a new movie or a TV show,” said Deitzler.
Having a high school and Summer Stage alumnus garner so much success was inspiring to the young adults.
¬ “It’s really cool that someone who has the same background as I have has made it so big and so famous,” said Ashton.
Madeline said Fey gives her “hope that something big can happen.”