Most of us do not live within easy travel distance to Broadway. It’s sad, but true. But wait- is it sad? Because we do not all live within a stone’s throw of the best of the best, are we forced to wander through the wilderness; theatreless; depending on morsels like show clips and cast albums; hearing from our more lucky friends, gathering like children around a father’s knee to hear the tales?
Well, no. Despite what the elitists tell you, there is theatre outside of New York! From the innovative Deaf West Theatre on the sunny shores of California, to the famed Kennedy Center and her acclaimed honors in DC, coast to coast in this amazing country you can find incredible theatre, far away from the bright lights of Broadway. I am here today to talk about some of the most common and most overlooked of that theatre: high school theatre.
Now, bear in mind, I may be biased because I grew up in the vicinity of the greatest high school theatre program that Washington state has to offer: Hanford High School. Hanford services Richland, ironically one of the most science-based areas in this great nation of ours: it has a national lab, a nuclear power plant, and another major scientific facility that proved Einstein’s theory of relativity. (Interestingly enough, it’s also home to Santino Fontana, Tony nominee and Disney prince/villain Hans from Frozen, though he graduated from Richland High School, the other high school in the city.) Hanford was a bit out of our way, but we made a point to go to all of their shows, whether we knew it or not. The name of the school was said with an excited reverence- Hanford is putting on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Did you hear? Hanford is doing The Little Mermaid this year. I’ve never heard of Urinetown, but since it’s Hanford, of course I’ll go!
I am one of the lucky few who has made the pilgrimage to Broadway to see shows, and I will tell you- Hanford is toe-to-toe with some of them in terms of quality, dedication, and enthusiasm. No offense to the tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat that I took my mom to for Mother’s Day, but I would trade our 70 dollar tickets for 15 dollar Hanford tickets any day.
But maybe this isn’t a fair point. Maybe you don’t live near the best high school theatre program in the state, and your town sucks and everything your town does sucks, and your high school theatre program probably sucks too. Well, aren’t you a Negative Nancy. I would ask you to again, look closer. As I briefly mentioned above Richland High School, I actually lived in a very nicely sized metropolis area with roundabout half a dozen high schools, and while they all paled in comparison to Hanford, they were still worth showing the support to the kids.
After all, all across this nation are the future Patti LuPones, Colm Wilkinsons, Taylor Loudermans, Ramin Karimloos, Jessie Muellers, and Jeremy Jordans. A future Tony winner is sitting in rehearsals for her performance of Aquata in her high school’s The Little Mermaid while this article goes live, and she could be in a school within twenty miles of you.
(Photo by Molly Norman.)