By Megan Martin
For the first time, the new musical theater class brought Alameda High School the musical “Carrie” at the Little Theater during the last two weekends in April. Directed by drama teacher Megan McKinley, “Carrie” has been the product of almost a year’s work, all rehearsed in class.
Carrie, played by freshman Annika Stenstedt, is a social outcast in her high school who “dresses and acts differently than the other people,” said Stenstedt. She is a shy, awkward teenager who is raised by an intensely religious mother. Throughout the course of the musical, she emerges and people finally see her and recognize her special powers: telekinesis.
The musical theater class was reinstated and offered this year under the direction of McKinley. This class was actually offered at Alameda High in the past but was cancelled some years back. “I love musical theater, so I asked to have it put back into the course catalog,” said McKinley. It was officially reinstated when enough students signed up to take it for it to be offered this year. “We are definitely doing it again next year,” said McKinley.
The musical theater class is essentially drama with “more of a focus on the singing and dancing aspect,” said senior Steven Samp, who plays Billy Nolan. Samp adds that “the arts are one of the most important aspects of school, and to have such a wide variety of options is amazing.”
Because it is new this year, enrollment was low so the class is relatively small. “We are all tight-knit and we are all really close so it is really fun,” said Stenstedt.
Samp agrees that because the class is so small and because “in ‘Carrie’ you work with them all year, there is definitely a family aspect you get.”
“The musical theater class was literally the most supportive and magical class that I’ve ever taught. I’ve never seen a group of students be as kind to each other as this class,” said McKinley.
For the first two months of the year, the class focused on learning about the different types of auditions an actor could go to as well as the techniques needed in order to be successful in those auditions. Then for a span of about two weeks, all of the students in musical theater class auditioned for their respective parts and had callbacks. The preparation for the musical began immediately after auditions.
The music director of the musical, Tanya Johnson, came in and taught the actors the songs for a few months. Right after “Footloose” opened in the beginning of March, the cast of “Carrie” began staging the show. Then for the next two weeks, they started blocking the songs and running through the musical in full scenes. In the beginning of April, they started meeting after school to rehearse the entirety of the musical.
The biggest difference between producing “Footloose” and “Carrie” is that “we rehearse more in class, so there is much more of a time limit,” said Stenstedt. They can get less done in total because the class only has the duration of period to rehearse.
Samp said that “comparing ‘Carrie’ and ‘Footloose’ is like comparing apples to oranges.” In “Footloose,” a wide variety of people auditioned for roles, while the people playing the roles in “Carrie” are all from the musical theater class. “In ‘Footloose’ you only work with them for maybe three or four months, but in ‘Carrie’ you work with them all year,” said Samp.
Acting in and directing two musicals simultaneously is time consuming and stressful, yet most seem to be in consensus that their love for musicals outweighs the difficulty of balancing both.
Samp says that all the aspects of acting are his favorite. “Even the rehearsals where I go to school at 7:30 and don’t come home until 10 pm. Even that is fun and amazing,” said Samp. And Samp adds that he did not feel like he had to balance “Carrie” and “Footloose” that much because rehearsals were at different times. It is just a “nonstop grind of shows,” which Samp enjoys.
McKinley stated that “it was really hard, but I knew it would be.” And the fact that she “loves musicals” made the process a lot easier.