Eighth grade musical: Time warp!

Little scenes came together to form a game show, and everyone in the grade came together…because they were required to participate. This year, the eighth grade performed “Time Warp” for the lower school, middle school, and parents. According to some, it was the best middle school musical they’d seen.

Whether it be a singing part, acting part, or a part in stage crew, every single person in the eighth grade had a part in this musical. I interviewed music teacher Anne Hess, the director of this show, to gather insight on the teachers’ perspective.

Q: What was your experience of the musical this year?

A: It was an incredibly fun show, humorous and took advantage of the energy and wide-spread talent of this class.

Q: How do you assign parts?

A: Once everyone auditions, we simply look at what parts are available and compare that with our audition notes.  There are usually a few parts where I have a inkling that a particular student is ideal for that role but mostly, it’s a like a giant puzzle.  You keep moving pieces around until I see that everyone in the grade is contributing to the show in a way that is meaningful and matches with the abilities that they offered during auditions or on the casting sheet.

Q: What’s your favorite part of putting together these musicals?

A:  I absolutely love when we begin to put all the pieces together.  This project works like a puzzle in many ways.  Because of the sheer size of the group, we have to do most of work in smaller groups.  Once we begin to practice the show in larger sections and the plot makes sense and I can see that students are beginning to see that this is going to be a fun show to perform.

Q: How do you decide on a certain play for each grade?

A:  I have a few musical Revues that we have written over the years for the 8th grade though I don’t like to repeat shows too soon.  For example, I’ll wait usually 4 years before repeating a show.  It was actually really nice to get to connect with some seniors this year as they watched us put the show together from afar!  Some of them still knew their lines!

Sometimes, I’m in the mood for a change, so I try to find someone to partner and write a new revue or maybe decide to do an adapted and abbreviated version of a book show.  Some books shows we have adapted are Oliver, Joseph and Honk!

Q: How did you involve the people who help out with the play? (for example, Carla Childs with costuming)

A: Carla and Teri have both been involved with music and drama at GFS far longer than I have.  It’s a pleasure to be able to work with talented colleagues.  It’s a nice team that we have now, there is a high level of trust and congeniality.  We are all pretty versatile, meaning that we bring many different skills and experiences to the table.  Carla brings not only Costuming experience but also directing and stage managing experience so she’s an invaluable resource to me.  What we have been able to do with sets/design has changed dramatically since Michael was hired 3 years ago.  Having a technical theatre expert on staff is a gift.

Q: How do you deal with the eighth graders?

A: Being in a school that has fairly small class sizes makes it a challenge to work in such a large group.  The way that you operate/participate in a class of 15 students is actually quite different from the way that you have to operate in a room of 80 people. Many students have a difficult time with this adjustment.  This is why, for the most part, we put the show together in smaller pieces. Putting together a show is very much a social thing.  It can also be uncomfortable for some, having to sing and put yourself out there in a way that is more public that students might be used to.  I have to hold all of that in balance as I relate to students and work through difficult moments.  In my heart of hearts, I know that no one is being disrespectful on purpose, but I try to hold folks accountable  because like any team effort, the more people give, the better the result will be!

Q: Which quote was the best or the most meaningful in this year’s musical?

A: Oh my goodness.  I can’t just pick one!  I have a favorite line in every scene!  I just love when the captain of the Titanic says:

“You’ve never seen a spyglass before?  I use it for spotting icebergs.”

It’s a great line, because all of the sudden you know where the plot is going! I think the Beatles scene got better and better the more we did it. With each show, the timing was perfected and the jokes got funnier. We still sing “scrambled eggs” at home 🙂 I was surprised at how much the Lower Schoolers enjoyed the “1776 Egg” number…it tied into their studies of Colonial America and the way they laughed at the turkey and the eagle and dove bit, that cracked everyone up! The 99% line was really relevant 4 years ago when we wrote the show; it’s still funny today and most people get the reference, but the Occupy Wall Street protests were very much in the news as we wrote and performed the show.