Together, come on, let’s have some fun!”
Upbeat tunes with brilliant choreography celebrating friendship, school life, and acceptance echoed at the Robert B. Gaw Theatre as talented Middle School (MS) students performed their hearts out for the High School Musical Jr. production! Led by Performing Arts Director Tina Casey, Dance Teacher Karen Palko, Music Teacher Kevin Christensen, High School students Sasha F., Class of 22’ as Assistant Director, and Trisha V., Class of 25’ as Stage Manager, the show follows Troy, Gabriella, and their peers as they navigate High School- discovering that they don’t need to stick to the status quo.
Although the students had minimal practice leading up to the big day, their talents shone as they graced the stage with familiar numbers such as “Get’cha Head In The Game” and “We’re All In This Together.” We caught up with Karen Palko to get the inside scoop on the production and how they managed to pull off a spectacular show!
A Start Of Something New
Describing the show as a culmination of text messages, quick meetings, and a flurry of emails that led to the start of the highly anticipated musical, Karen explains:
“We realized that we would miss the opportunity to have a Middle School show this year if we didn’t jump in with both feet and just do it!”
“Once we decided it would be High School Musical Jr., we looked at the calendar and booked all the available timeframes to practice, which amounted to nine total 40-minute practices, two Zoom meetings for leads, a couple of Saturdays, and one school day.”
Getting Their Head In The Game
Just like how Troy and Gabriella made a surprise decision to audition for the school show, our Middle School students also received a delightful surprise when they found out that the musical was happening. Karen adds, “The announcement was made in the MS bulletin, and auditions were held online.”
“Callbacks were created, students met with our music director, Kevin, and then… voila! The show was cast, students signed contracts, and it was a fast and furious three weeks of learning the dances, songs, and lines.”
Soaring To The Top
There are multiple elements integrated into ISKL’s MS program, one of which is the Student Agency initiative, designed to empower students to experience more voice and choice in how they learn, which, in turn, supports the development of future-ready skills. Our students demonstrated self-directedness, resilience, and collaboration as they learned dances from videos, practiced songs from karaoke tracks, and learned their lines in their own time.
Applauding the amount of agency showcased by the students, Karen exclaimed, “from blocking to reviewing choreography to learning harmonies in the songs, students were impressive with their abilities to think fast, sort out staging issues, gather their costumes, and practice, practice, practice!”
All In This Together
From the rush of getting ready backstage to the exhilarating feeling of performing under the illuminating light, our Panthers shared their experience that exemplified teamwork the same way the jocks, brainiacs, and thespians came together at the end of the show.
Troy Bolton, the male lead in the show, expertly played by Pranav C., said, “I had an amazing experience during the whole process of creating the High School Musical Jr. production. What made everything fun was collaborating with my friends and teachers, which made the show what it was. I think that musicals like this help you learn to collaborate with others and especially learn about the art of theatre.”
Gabriella’s character, played by Hannah K., said, “I loved the experience of working with new people, especially having to get it all ready in a month. I thought it was hectic but absolutely fun. Getting on stage and having a lead role was super nerve-racking, but as soon as I started, it felt so normal.”
Grade 7 student Tee T., who played Chad, said, “This musical was my first of hopefully many more. I am proud of this amazing experience with my friends and teachers. I want to thank Ms. Palko for choreographing Getcha Head in the Game and teaching it to us ‘jocks’ — working with kids to dance with basketballs requires much effort and patience. I want to thank Mr. Christensen for working with people who have singing lines and giving us suggestions. I also want to thank Trisha and Sasha, the assistant directors, for helping us remember cues, set up mics, remember lines, and singing tips. My first performance was truly a breakthrough theater experience, and I’m sure to audition for more in the future! Maybe even go for the lead next time!”
Brainiac Grade 7 student Greta B. exclaimed, “I will always remember this play. It was such an amazing experience. I loved being with my friends and learning all of our choreography. Even though sometimes it was challenging, I will, without fail, remember this experience. Our directors did an incredible job and taught us many valuable theater lessons.”
Sharpay, played by Mona B., said, “This whole musical has been one of the most amazing adventures at ISKL so far this year. After arriving as a new student, I enjoyed working with people and putting on a show for an actual crowd. I could be with not only my friends but with new people I got to know. I enjoyed my role very much as I felt like I didn’t need to be Mona acting as Sharpay; I could be Sharpay. A big thank you to everyone that helped make this show happen. I love performing, but performing here at ISKL was an absolute pleasure. ”
Daphne L., who played drama teacher Mrs. Darbus, exclaimed, “I had such a fun time from memorizing my lines to stepping out on stage. The overall experience was amazing; the directors were there to support you with tips for memorizing your lines or what to wear. This musical was extraordinary, and seeing it being put together was just mind-blowing. The musical will always be something I will look back to in the future.”
Vayden W., who played the character Zeke “I had so much fun playing Zeke! Overall, it was a great experience, and my castmates and the crew made the play a memory to remember. I’m proud of what we did that Friday, and I recommend you sign up for the play next year! Even if you don’t get the main role, you’ll get an amazing memory that’ll stay forever in your heart.”
The musical is a testament to how our educators are committed to creating opportunities for students, no matter the circumstances. While our MS performers proved that the show must go on, and they would shine as bright as ever. Apart from the essential learning experiences, this is a memory that will last a lifetime.
A big congratulations to our Panthers for pulling off a magical show—we are already excited for the next one! Keep up with other ISKL news by reading our blog and following us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.