A very different high school musical

How five students transformed lockdown boredom into creativity

Photo by Courtesy of Dorothee Catipon 

3 min read

The Covid-19 pandemic interrupted the academic experience of students like no other event ever before. Online classes, only virtual contact with friends, no games, proms or live shows. However, what was a difficult time for many sparked the creativity of five high schoolers in Livermore, California.

“We had so much time just being at home, so at the beginning of my sophomore year, two friends reached out to me and a few others to see if we wanted to make a musical together. That became what we did, outside of class, for the second half of 2020 and 2021.”

Dorothee, now a senior, loves theater and live shows, and was immediately excited. The group started meeting weekly for two hours and developed the idea of how they might remember these odd years of online school when meeting in the future.

Soon, the plot was sketched out: 10 years after graduation, a group of former friends reconnects and reminisces about high school through a series of memories and flashbacks of their four high school years. The audience sees how the friends drifted apart, only to discover how their friendship has shaped them, as well as their need to reconnect.

The five friends, who belonged to two different high schools, took on different roles: “I was one of the writers working on the script,” shares Dorothee. “One of us wrote all the lyrics and score. From time to time, we would reconnect and discuss our work.”

At first, they didn’t know if the play would ever make it to the stage. But once the script was finished, they wanted to give it a try.

“Towards the end of sophomore year, we contacted the drama teacher at my high school, which has a theater where we could perform the show. We asked her about staging the play as one of the shows for the following season. She looked at it and said yes.”

All of a sudden it became possible, though it took far more work than they imagined! Many parts needed reworking. How did they face the inevitably difficult moments?

“Most of the time, when we had a disagreement, we tried to hear what the other person was arguing for, and then if we were really stuck, we tried to figure out the majority opinion—you know, breaking the tie—and then we went with majority rule,” said Dorothee. Luckily, there were five of them.

Another decision was not to strive for perfection: “We would keep rewriting only to be unsatisfied. We had to go over the script again and again.”

Yet they didn’t feel stressed: “Personally, I never thought it was too much, and we had so much free time because the ’20-’21 school year was mostly online.”

When they finally went back to school in person, rehearsals for [INSERT future HERE], began. Dorothee codirected, a role she enjoyed so much she now wants to pursue it as a career.

So how did it feel when the big day finally arrived? “It was amazing. Definitely, each one of us will never forget it. We were so excited to show our musical to the world, after the 18 months that we spent working on it.”

The show had a cast of 17, accompanied by 7 musicians, plus a 22-person stage crew.

Dorothee feels a bit sad that it’s over, but now in her senior year, new things await. The main message—keeping up with your friends—will remain.

“When we started this project, not all of us were really close friends, but we became very close throughout the writing process.”

And they will forever be the first to create a student-written, student-directed production at their school.    

There’s more at insertfuturehere.weebly.com.

Join the conversation. Send your thoughts to the editor Jon Sweeney.