As Theater Director Jesse Howard sees it, the story of High School Musical has many parallels with the school culture at Berkshire.
Starting Thursday, Feb. 14, Howard’s students will perform the popular Disney movie-turned-theater production for three nights at Allen Theater.
“The story very much mirrors what happens here, which is that kids from all different corners of the school come together, to perform in a musical,” says Howard. “We decided to do it because it sends a message that although you may define yourself, or people may define you in a certain way, people are more three dimensional than that.”
High School Musical’s plot follows several cliques at East High School—Jocks, Brainiacs, Thespians, Skaters, and Cheer Squad—and the repercussions that unfold when some students attempt to try something different, or in this case audition for the school’s musical.
With a large cast that features several newcomers to Berkshire’s theater program, Howard says rehearsals have been “high energy” and that he’s enjoyed helping students expand their own experience.
“I auditioned for the musical because it was something that was always on my ‘Berkshire Bucket List,’” says Harley Frechette '19, who plays the lead role of antagonist Sharpay Evans. The musical is the first play she’s ever been involved in.
“I know that when I walk away from this experience, I will take away multiple self-discoveries around my contribution to teams, my dedication, and my courage,” Frechette adds.
For Deng Kur '19, who plays the role of Zeke, a basketball player with a secret passion for baking, there are parallels between his on-stage character in the production and his own experience as a member of Berkshire’s championship winning soccer team. Yet, at times, he’s found the unfamiliar experience of stage work to be the most rewarding.
“There have been occasions where I've needed to reflect and be honest with myself when going through choreography and music and being humble enough to take constructive criticism and guidance,” Kur says.
Every musical at Berkshire is a collaborative effort between students and adults. For Howard, this is yet another rewarding aspect of the job. The music is co-directed by Dr. Cheng-Chia “Tasia” Wu and Dr. Clive Davis, while set-builder Dom Saylor and assistant director Annie Rosenberg also work closely with Howard on the musical’s finer details. The show is choreographed by Ellen Gorman, co-owner of Moving Arts Exchange, a dance studio in Great Barrington.
“We always try to pick material that has some relevance to the Berkshire community,” adds Howard. “The more we’ve worked on this musical, the more we’ve found the richness in it.”
What: High School Musical, Cast List Where: Berkshire School, Allen Theater When: Thursday, Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. A $2 donation is suggested at the door.