Helen-Thea Marcus has a strong sense of community. The Ashland High School senior feels obligated to give back to her hometown before leaving to pursue her dream of singing opera. In a case of thinking globally, but acting locally, Marcus' senior project is a concert that will bring together her musical community and Ashland as a whole to benefit the ACCESS Emergency Food Bank.
Marcus came up with a plan when she was giving blood on her birthday. She put together a show called "All You Need Is Love," a musical variety featuring Marcus, her brother and friends, as well as the Ashland High School Choir.
"I wanted to give something back to the community before I can ask for help," Marcus said. "I am going to need a large amount of scholarship money. I wanted to do something like this before I approach people like the Rotary."
Marcus has been thinking about the production since December and started getting it together in March, in what has been a "difficult winter" for her. Besides putting together the show, she has been to state regional competitions in acting, solo and ensemble and choir. She won third place in costume design. Her responsibilities as a student and traveling the country for various school auditions complicate her daily life further.
"I think I bite off more than I can chew," she said. "Juggling this along with all my other responsibilities has been a challenge, but it keeps me busy."
Marcus will study opera at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J., this fall.
"I think that I have performing in my blood," she said, "and I wanted to be trained in the best and hardest discipline so I could then do whatever I wanted."
Ashland High School Choir Director Holly Johnson said she feels Marcus is up for the challenge.
"Helen adores music and adores performing," she said. "She has amazing commitment and a gorgeous voice."
Marcus' desire to help the community is no surprise to Johnson.
"I think she's learned how important community is," Johnson said. "Helen has a remarkable capacity for generosity and compassion. She is not self-centered, as many performers are."
Johnson is in her second year as choir director at AHS and has worked with Marcus both years. Johnson first noticed Marcus' ability when Marcus was in middle school.
"She was the cat in the musical 'Honk,'" Johnson said, "and she was fantastic. It was her ability to interpret the part that really caught my eye."
Johnson will conduct the AHS Choir during the performance, which also includes songs by the Beatles, musical theater, jazz and a duet of Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Pie Jesu" with her brother Myles.
Although Marcus is responsible for putting the show together, she has received a little help from her friends, including senior mentor Ariella St. Clair.
"I have been putting on concerts for the past 13 years," St. Clair said, "and Helen needed help with publicity and logistics, but other than that, Helen is doing this on her own. The Unitarian Center wanted adult supervision, so I will be there for that."
Marcus chose the theme "All You Need Is Love" because "Love is a universal concept, and it is a vital necessity."
The musical variety show takes place 7 p.m. tonight at the Unitarian Center, 87 Fourth St. Admission is a monetary donation to the food bank.