Among the many things for which Forest Parkers can express thanks tomorrow, I would include the Proviso Math and Science Academy. In only its fourth year of existence, the academy ranks among the top public high schools in the Chicago area when it comes to standardized test scores.

Senior David Wawzenek has certainly enjoyed his years at the academy. David aspires to a career in filmmaking. The academy’s theater department has given him opportunities to act and direct, and the school’s mentorship program enables him to attend film school at a Loop college.

David and his classmates in the theater department recently had a chance to showcase their talents in An Evening of Love and Laughs. The show was comprised of five one-act plays with each play being introduced by a musical number. On a frigid Friday night, more than a hundred students and adults flocked to the academy’s cafeteria to cheer on the performers.

The show was the brainchild of the school’s theater teacher, Mary Scherer-Emunds, who wanted to create an informal, intimate atmosphere. The paying customers sat at scattered tables with snacks, which complemented the “theatre cafĂ©” setting.

As the title suggests, all the plays focused on love and the struggle to find it. Highlights included the love-mad souls from Spoon River and a snippet from the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene. There was modern material, too. “Small World” featured three couples on computer-arranged blind dates. During the course of their conversations, it’s revealed that “home health aide” has only one patient, his mother; “chicken farmer” has no farm; “jazz boy” secretly likes Britney Spears and the woman who dreams of working in television exclusively watches reruns of The Jeffersons.

“On the Edge” portrayed a conversation between a suicidal young man and a brash young woman who eventually joins him on the ledge. The set had a realistic quality, because the young man, standing on rickety wooden boxes, looked like he was going to fall any second. David directed this segment, while also serving as the evening’s stage manager.

The money collected that night will help finance the theater department’s spring production of Working, the splendid musical based on the writings of the late Studs Terkel. In addition to its commercial success, An Evening of Love and Laughs gave some newcomers their first chance to perform on stage. David recalled that 30 students auditioned for the 10 parts.

David is thankful for his four years at the academy. He said the school provides a great option for students graduating from Forest Park Middle School and enhances the reputation of District 209. He said that connections between District 91 and the academy should be strengthened.

Wow, a quality public high school for Forest Park kids. Now, that’s something we can all be thankful for.