An Extremely Laudatory Oral History of Your High-School Theatre Program

TRIPLE-THREAT ACTRESS: Sometimes, there’s a moment. And after that moment? Nothing is the same. For anyone who was there, that moment was the 2006 spring production of “Annie” at Marshallville High School.

TEACHER WITH BOUNDARY ISSUES: You can’t imagine what a thunderclap that show was.

SUPER-AMBITIOUS STUDENT DIRECTOR: A lot of people are completely delusional about their high-school theatre programs being special, but not us. There was just something in the air.

RANDOM STAGEHAND: You gotta understand—this was Marshallville, Pennsylvania, 2006. Bush in the White House. The movie “Rent” on DVD. The city was a powder keg about to explode. Something was happening.

TEACHER WITH BOUNDARY ISSUES: I tried to give my students a taste of the real world of drama whenever possible. And, in the real world, there’s a man forty years older than you who calls your house while your family is eating dinner and makes you cry about your set design. That’s just life in the theatre, darling.

ATHLETE WHO SECRETLY LOVED ALL OF IT: I auditioned ’cause they were short on broad-shouldered boys, but the whole thing was honestly so dumb. The intoxicating smell of the greasepaint? Dumb. The soul-stirring roar of the crowd? Mondo dumb, dude.

STAGE MANAGER WITH A HUGE CHIP ON HER SHOULDER: I was sometimes accused of relishing the control I had over my peers, when all I asked was for people to clap twice to indicate that they had heard the sound of my voice.

PREMATURELY OLD-LOOKING CHARACTER ACTOR: They always had me play the goddam mayor in these shows because my acne scarring made me look fifty years old. I didn’t want to play the mayor! Screw my acne scarring’s production value!

SUPER-AMBITIOUS STUDENT DIRECTOR: Bertolt Brecht once said that a production of “Annie” that doesn’t make the audience want to go out and steal an orphan isn’t “Annie” at all.

TEACHER WITH BOUNDARY ISSUES: From the second I led the cast in a trust exercise in which everyone blew into one another’s mouths, I knew. Boom! Lightning in a bottle. This group was something special. This show was going to make people want to steal an orphan. Brecht would finally be able to rest.


TRIPLE-THREAT ACTRESS: Oh, God, were there ever.

ATHLETE WHO SECRETLY LOVED ALL OF IT: Yeah, one time the principal thought he smelled pot on me but he didn’t. I wish he had. Then I wouldn’t have had to sing any more of Charles Strouse’s chipper and infectious Tony Award-winning score for “Annie.”

STAGE MANAGER WITH A HUGE CHIP ON HER SHOULDER: I think he should have been expelled for even smelling like he broke the rules. Rules are meant to be followed.

TEACHER WITH BOUNDARY ISSUES: The show was a high-wire act. Thrilling. Terrifying. Seemingly impossible. But that’s what the spring musical at Marshallville High School could do—make you rethink the possible.

TRIPLE-THREAT LEAD ACTRESS: I’ll never forget, opening night, some ensemble member missed an entrance. Our leading man, without missing more than a beat, goes, “Uh, I think he’ll be here in a second.” Electrifying.

ATHLETE WHO SECRETLY LOVED ALL OF IT: It was just the first thing that came into my head. It’s not like I’m some kind of loser freak for whom the rush of live theatre is a drug.

RANDOM STAGEHAND: Nobody stole an orphan, but some of the parents said that our production was as good as the national tour that came to Pittsburgh. Other parents—the ones with taste—said it was even better.

SUPER-AMBITIOUS STUDENT DIRECTOR: I still think it was pretty unfair that we never got a Times review just because we lived in suburban Pennsylvania.

PREMATURELY OLD-LOOKING CHARACTER ACTOR: I got a few write-in votes for mayor that year because people thought I was old enough and carried myself with authority.

TRIPLE-THREAT ACTRESS: Where am I now? Oh, perhaps another visit to Ellen’s Stardust Diner will jog your memory. I’m the waitress who isn’t allowed to sing songs from “Annie” anymore.

TEACHER WITH BOUNDARY ISSUES: I was relieved of my teaching post after flying a cohort of dedicated students to the woods of Poland to join a wonderful movement troupe called Zespół Ruchu Polskiego.

SUPER-AMBITIOUS STUDENT DIRECTOR: Thanks to my old theatre teacher’s guidance, I am now the leader of Zespół Ruchu Polskiego. When the Polish Army laid siege to our compound because they said we were a cult, I thought of him fondly as I lobbed the first grenade.

ATHLETE WHO SECRETLY LOVED ALL OF IT: I’m the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I don’t ever do a Sondheim revue at the local karaoke bar the first Friday of every month if anyone is around.

STAGE MANAGER WITH A HUGE CHIP ON HER SHOULDER: I am now the head nurse at a psychiatric facility. Sometimes I do administer electroshock therapy as a punishment, but I only rarely take pleasure in it.

PREMATURELY OLD-LOOKING CHARACTER ACTOR: People used to tell me I’d grow into a lot more acting work when I was older, but this has not proved to be the case.

RANDOM STAGEHAND: It was a wild ride, that’s for sure. But would I do it all over again if I could? You bet your bottom dollar. ♦

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