But when people learned of the school's plight - the Philadelphia Daily News also published a story - they opened their hearts and their wallets. With contributions big and small, they cheered the CAPA students on.
One donor who wished to remain anonymous found the school's plight "heartbreaking and infuriating."
Terrilyn McCormick, a Home and School vice president, plans to meet with teachers and the school's interim principal Monday to start the planning process - picking a show to stage, setting auditions and performance dates.
Licensing rights for a show are not cheap, and the nearly $24,000 raised to date won't pay the full bill. (Recent shows often cost more than old ones - the rights to Shrek cost a lot more than The Mikado.)
But it's enough to get started, and several donors have expressed interest in writing larger checks after meeting with parents and school staff, McCormick said.
It's the third year of money woes for CAPA's annual show. Two years ago, after the district stopped providing funds for it, a William Penn Foundation grant made the show possible. Last year, there was no money, but parents vowed to establish a fund and get the show up and running in 2014. A link was set up to make giving easy via the online service PayPal.
By Thursday night, McCormick, whose son is a sophomore theater major, was ecstatic at the latest round of giving.
"I am floored," she said. "Completely overwhelmed."
Particularly heartening, she said, were the many small donations - $10 here, $20 there - with encouraging notes. It's a tough time for public education, McCormick said, but people care.
"I connected to quite a few people who either had a connection with the school or felt like it was a special place," McCormick said.
And the students?
"They're going," she said, "to be crazy excited."