Most high school students have their sights set firmly on the future, with college and a career ahead of them. But a handful of students from Irvine High School are taking time to remember the past.
El Camino Real Elementary School in Irvine, which has put on an annual spring musical for many years, was faced with the prospect of no musical this year because of cuts in the school’s budget.
Principal Gene Bedley sent flyers home to parents last fall, asking them to think about ways to keep the tradition alive.
When Fran Antenore, mother of El Camino Real fifth-grader Jeff and third-grader Robert, received the news in October, she began formulating a plan to save the musical.
“I knew I could organize it, but I didn’t have the drama expertise to do it myself,” said Antenore, who turned to the students at Irvine High, where she teaches math.
Antenore introduced the project to members of her teacher advisement group, sophomores who meet with her daily for 20 minutes, and to other students she thought might be interested.
The high school students held brainstorming sessions for three days to come up with a theme for the musical, which they titled “The Show Must Go On.”
“Since I like to write, we decided that I’d write something and we’d all make corrections,” said sophomore Kara Platoni, one of the musical’s co-directors.
“I wrote a play in junior high,” she said, “but this is actually the first play I had to seriously write and really seriously have it performed.”
The plot of “The Show Must Go On” is similar to El Camino Real’s crisis. The story is about a down-and-out theater that’s about to fold because it hasn’t been able to put on a successful production.
Each teen-ager had his or her own reason for helping out.
“I’ve been involved in performing arts since about fifth grade and this is really my first directing experience,” said sophomore Jackie Rubin, another co-director. “And I really love working with kids.”
In December, the Irvine students held three after-school workshops for El Camino Real’s fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students.
The teen-agers led small groups of children through song, dance and acting lessons before their auditions, which lasted another three days.
“Our main goal was that everyone who auditioned would get a part,” said Platoni, adding that 64 “very rambunctious, feisty kids” showed up for the tryouts.
Rehearsals were held twice a week all January and February for about an hour after school, and a number of the children got together on their own during recesses and after school. During the past two weeks, the schedule has increased to three times a week.
“At the end of each rehearsal, we just gather around all the kids in what we call the Circle of Energy,” Antenore said. “We choose one person to squeeze the hand of the person he or she is next to, and when it gets all the way around, we just all cheer. It’s a positive note to end all the rehearsals.”
Creed Poulson, a sixth-grader, plays one of the stage managers in the musical. “I like the last scene where all the main characters are sitting around and they’re depressed because they are going to lose the theater,” he said. “I like it because I get to sing a song that expresses how much I enjoy acting and singing.”
The high school student volunteers are sophomores Bobby Borning and Kerry Kick, who are helping with the choreography; Rubin, sophomore Ken Rolston and senior Malinee Churanakoses, who head the singing; Platoni and sophomore Heidi Radebaugh, who supervise the acting; sophomore Geoff Flint, who designed the programs and cast T-shirts, and sophomores Carri Brucker, Jennifer Lehman, Jenny Hamilton, Amy Mendonca and Meghvi Maheta, who are handling a variety of tasks.
“High school students get a bad rap,” Bedley said. “You give them an opportunity to reach out and help other kids and you get excellent results. I think it’s a mutual payoff for everybody.”
El Camino Real parents helped with set and prop designs, costumes, music and supervision; the school’s PTA donated $500.
“The Show Must Go On” will be presented March 5 through 7 at 7 p.m. at El Camino Real Elementary School, 4782 Karen Ann Lane, Irvine. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for students.