This weekend, the 26 cast members and 15 crew of the Proctor theater department will take the stage to perform In the Heights. With music and lyrics written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the author and composer of famed Hamilton, the mix of hip-hop, salsa, and classic musical numbers make this show a good one “even if you’re not into musical theater” says lead Sam Wyckoff ‘19, “because it is so special - the message, the music, the dance - all of it”.
The diverse characters and contemporary music bring in musical theater veterans, such as Avery Nye ‘20, Margaret Fair ‘19 and Cat Krupka ‘19, along with students who are new to the stage, like Essence McClain ‘20, Daniel Gunther ‘19 and Carlos Meyer ‘20. As they each challenge themselves lyrically and physically, especially in the show-stopping number, “96,000”, students are invited to explore the issues of race, immigration and the meaning of ‘home’.
With such relevant topics in today’s world, In the Heights has opened up remarkable opportunities for cross-curricular collaboration. Because of the show, the English Department was inspired to shift the spring reading to focus on displacement and the immigrant experience. Fiona Mills’ American Literature class has been reading short stories from The Refugees and The Water Museum, and local poet Ewa Chrusciel came to campus to share her immigration story from Poland.
On Friday, the cast and crew will partner with the Diversity Committee for a Q&A in assembly to ask questions such as “how do you relate to your character?” and “what is it like to portray someone from a different ethnic background?”. The goal is to inspire rich and meaningful conversations that encourage students to examine their beliefs about political and ethical dilemmas, as well as their own relationship to displacement. Adolescence, especially at a boarding school, is a constant navigation of identity, and many students can relate to the culture split between the various worlds they call their own.
In the Heights is unrivaled in the complexity of the music and storyline compared to any in Proctor’s past. We applaud Director Jen Summers for recognizing the potential in this group of students to take on a show of this magnitude. We are similarly blown away by the choreography (led by guest choreographer Gavin King), set design (led by Wendy Connolly), costuming (thank you to Joan Saunders and crew), and music (Bill Wightman turns more than 400 pages of while playing nonstop for this show!). The devotion of the faculty and staff working on the show is met by students’ enthusiasm for the opportunity to explore a new era of musical theater as they rap, flip and ‘do the worm’ across the stage.
A byproduct of the intentional weaving of interdisciplinary themes throughout our community, what began as a classroom conversation around the immigrant experience has transcended guest speakers, personal testimonies, and individual experiences to the very tangible production of In the Heights. Social Science and English teacher, Fiona Mills, reflects on the impact of the show, “For many students, this show has finally humanized the concepts we have been talking about on so many different levels. ” She adds, "For the first time they are challenging their own perceptions and beliefs and asking their peers to do the same. It has been, and will continue to be, a powerful journey for our community."
Congratulations to the students, faculty and staff who have put an immense amount of work into this production (conservative estimates range from 20-25 hours of rehearsal each week). More importantly, thank you to the cast and crew for bringing incredibly important topics of conversation to the forefront of our community dialogue. Musical theater, especially such an exciting contemporary show, calls us to explore our complex identities and dynamic communities, and helps us be more open and aware as a school, community and country.
Be sure to reserve your tickets at the link below for In the Heights, performed this Friday and Saturday at 7:00 pm.