It’s showtime for a school-wide musical

Chloe Wintersteen

EDITED PHOTO
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Twenty exhausted figures surround me backstage. It is too dark to see the others, but light enough to feel the synergy, the adrenaline. I treasure this moment, for I know that it will soon become a recycled memory, worn out like a reused rhyme.

Click. Light rays bathe the stage in a technicolor glow, cueing the orchestra to play its final Gershwin medley. I am wearing black gloves, a powder blue romper and my secret weapontap shoes. My subtle grin brightens into a toothy smile as I am swept away by the music, and ballroom dance with fellow castmates in the wings.

I rush onstage, face the outlines of nearly 1,000 audience members applauding in the dark and take my final bow–my thank you to the attendees and my entire creative team for their unyielding support.

***

When I took my bow after the closing performance of the musical “Crazy For You” at Interlochen Arts Camp last summer, I was amazed by how much I’d grown personally and artistically while under the influence of my directors and peers.

To me, musical theater is the most effective art form in which to express joy for the actors and audience members alike. Through the seamless culmination of numerous artistic and technical elements, everyone involved simultaneously agrees to suspend their disbelief and wholeheartedly believe in the story being told on stage. Though in real life groups of people tend to be fragmented, the unity exemplified in a theater is a testament to the good in humanity. However, musical theater also has the powerful ability to comment on our flaws, initiate topical conversations, and spark societal change. Musical theater has this ability now more than ever, for it is a much more diverse art form than it was in the past and has access to a broad range of demographics. For instance, while the musical theater community has been able to successfully maintain the classical musical theater genre, through recent broadway revivals like “Dames at Sea” and “On the Town,” the medium has also been able to gracefully evolve with the times and reflect today’s massive human variety through performances like Broadway’s recent new musical, “Hamilton.”

Musical theater deserves to inhabit a prominent space in all academic settings. Not only are performers required to sing, act and dance well, but they are constantly challenged to find truth and honesty in their work. Though musical theater requires intense discipline and risk taking, the process provides a near-perfect outlet for artistic and intellectual expression, and is essential to forming a fully-functioning ensemble, and individual.

However, a vast majority of my peers do not have the opportunity to participate in a musical theater production at Redwood.

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Throughout my high school career, I actively sought extracurricular musical theater productions and lessons outside of school, due to a lack of sufficient opportunities for me at school. Though I was in Advanced Drama my junior year, I decided to leave the program senior year to allocate more time toward college applications and musical theater related programs throughout the bay area.

In order to participate in a mainstage show at Redwood, students must take Advanced Drama, which is only available to students who have taken Beginning and Intermediate drama as prerequisites. Even then, the drama program predominantly focuses on plays.

Currently, if you’re in Advanced Drama, the time commitment makes it difficult to perform with companies outside of school, and like many extracurricular programs, the directors strongly urge that Advanced Drama be students’ first priority. However, if you aren’t in the program, it is nearly impossible to participate in plays at school. This juxtaposition is ironic given the purpose of a theater education––to provide diversified instruction so students can grow into well-rounded artists.

Any high schooler should have the opportunity to be in a production, which is why an annual musical should be produced at Redwood outside of the drama program, and be available to any student who wishes to audition.

***

While Redwood’s drama program would have to be slightly involved in the production of a school-wide musical, since performance spaces and tools would need to be shared, the responsibility of producing the show shouldn’t fall directly on the drama department itself. Though musical theater is the ultimate collaborative art form, Redwood currently tends to avoid artistic collaboration across departments. I’ve been told by theater teachers in the Tam District that we don’t have the resources in place to put on a school-wide musical, but this is false; we could easily pool resources from various academic and artistic departments on campus. Engineering students could design and build sets, visual art students could create scenery, music students could form an orchestra, and tech students could run lights and sound during the production. We have the resources, we just need to work together to create one larger piece of art that we all can be proud of.

It is easy to feel lost at Redwood as an underclassman, especially if you’re not a part of a sports team or specific club. Putting on a school wide musical would not only unite various departments and social groups, but elevate our school spirit and make students feel as though they’re a part of a community starting freshman year. The musical can and should act as something we all can enjoy.

My elementary school put on a musical, my middle school put on a musical, but the tradition of participating in a school-wide musical came to a screeching halt at Redwood. While members of my parents’ generation can fondly recall their high school musicals, my class will not be able to reminisce about a production with their children.

For some reason, Redwood is an outlier, as this distinctly American tradition is still actively thriving across the country. The vast majority of my friends who attend both public and private schools outside of the Tam District perform in at least one school musical every year, regardless of their involvement in their drama departments. If they can do it, why can’t we?

The primary reason why Redwood currently does not offer a musical to all students is that no one has brought up the possibility before. As a soon-to-be theater major in college, I look back upon my high school experience and hope that any Redwood student who wishes to be in a high-quality musical be granted that opportunity. Actively involving myself in musical theater shaped me into the person I am today, and I’m sure my continued participation in college will continue to impact me artistically, intellectually, and emotionally in the future. I was lucky enough to discover my potential in musical theater outside of school, but unless we offer an annual musical to every student, some of my peers may not be as fortunate.