For Donna and Matt Phillips, the Prep Theatre is a very special place. It is in that room where their sons Christopher ’16 and Matthew ’18 found a home at the school, and the place where the Jesuit mission was instilled in them, thanks to the tutelage of Mr. Tony Braithwaite ’89.
Now, the couple has decided to donate to the For Others Forever Campaign to help renovate the main Prep building, including the Theatre.
“That area of the school is almost exactly the same as it was when I walked into it 40-plus years ago, and it is noticeable especially compared to all of the great new spaces,” Matt says. “That area needs some upgrading to make sure it is usable for the students, both today and in the future.”
The For Others Forever Campaign will renovate many of the areas in the Prep building that opened in 1969. The entrance will be redone to accommodate enhanced security while the Library will be renovated into a more modern Learning Commons, and the classrooms will be upgraded to accommodate new learning styles and teaching methods. In addition, the Prep Theatre will be transformed with new seating, lighting, and staging, though the bones will stay the same. That was important to the couple.
“That place changed our sons’ lives in so many ways,” says Matt. “They loved being a part of it: all of the traditions; the excellence that the Prep produces. It was a wonderful part of their lives.”
Christopher was already active in Mock Trial and Forensics when he met Mr. Braithwaite on Kairos during his junior year. He encouraged Chris to try out for the next Prep show, “Kennedy’s Crisis.” Chris made the cast, flourished in his role, and found a new home.
“Tony says all the time that Prep Theatre takes good kids and makes them better, and that was definitely the case for our boys,” Donna says. “For Christopher, it gave him the confidence to go outside of his comfort zone and that really helped him in college [at Georgetown].”
She laughingly remembers the summer of 2016 when Cape and Sword did a series of Shakespeare scenes at City Hall. In his scene, Christopher had a physical moment on stage with a girl. “We jokingly said only Tony Braithwaite could get Christopher to kiss a girl in the middle of the City Hall courtyard,” she says.
Their younger son, Matthew, was drawn immediately to the theatre, having acted in shows in grade school. As a senior, he was named co-captain of Cape and Sword and was instrumental in convincing the Disney Corporation to allow the Prep to be among the first six schools to do a pilot production to perform the Broadway show Newsies. He starred as Davey in the show, which had three sold out weekends, a school record.
“Matthew loved being called upon to be a leader of the group, and Tony puts a lot of responsibility on the co-captains,” Donna says.
Donna and Matt are incredibly supportive of the Prep. The couple attends the President’s Reception each year; Matt is a regular volunteer at the Prep Open House and annually proctors the Entrance Exam. The decision to support the Capital Campaign, especially the Theatre Renovation, was an easy one for them.
“Cape and Sword is the best high school theatre program in the area, hands down, no question,” Donna says. “With Tony at the helm, that isn’t going to change. We wanted to help give them a space that is worthy of the work that they do.”