We’re All In This Together: The Production of High School Musical at AIS

I joined the QSI, Almaty family last year when I was hired as vocal and elementary music specialist. It was my first full year of teaching and it truly was a year of firsts. I was just beginning to figure out the type of teacher I was as well as how to find my way around this new foreign city. Going into my second year I had my bearings a little bit more and was beginning to feel more comfortable. I was asked if I would be interested in heading up the school musical, something that seemed like a daunting task, but I accepted. I knew this would be a big job, but until it was underway I didn’t realize quite how big it really would be! I decided on a production that was recognizable, something I knew and something that my students would also know; High School Musical. Myself and several of my colleagues hosted auditions for the cast and had applications for the crew in December last year. The list of cast and crew was set and we were able to hit the ground running once we returned from our winter break in January.

            Rehearsals and design meetings flew by as our performance date inched closer. The farther that time went on, the more things presented themselves that needed to be done; ordering t-shirts, blocking scenes, finding props, creating choreography, making programs, advertising, gathering more microphones, putting in work requests, and much, much more. But despite what seemed like an ever growing list of tasks, we began to check things off. When we needed someone to lead choreography, a parent came in to help. When we needed programs picked up and flyers to be hung, students volunteered. When we needed more microphones, another school in the city was there to help out. And when I was silently panicking on the inside as to whether or not the musical would be a success… my students stepped up and put in the work to get it done.

            I asked several of our students to share their thoughts about participating in the production this year. I would like to share some of their words with you. Gia Goshishvili-Matthews (Secondary 2), who is our leading male role, Troy Bolton, said, “I decided to get involved in the musical this year because it would be a fun and bonding experience for me, my friends and with others in the musical.” A stagehand crew member, Penelope Braeckel (9 Year Old), said, “The most rewarding part was that I got to do something that I like to do and I got to meet new people.” Kaycee Smith (13 Year Old), who is playing another lead character, Taylor McKessie, remarked that, “the most rewarding part is being able to work together with friends and create something we are proud of.” Joella Whiting (Secondary 1), our lead female character, Gabriella Montez, spoke similarly saying, “The most rewarding part of this experience will be looking back and seeing that I have accomplished something great and made it through all the trials we faced along the way.”

            I also questioned our students as to why they think activities in the arts, like a school musical, are important. Again, they had some outstanding responses for me. Yoo Na Choi (Secondary 3), a member of our set-design crew said, “Activities like this lead students to show their talents (singing, drawing, technologies etc.) and ensures how each person’s role or responsibility is important.” Arusha Binder (13 Year Old), who plays a supporting character this year, says that these activities are important because it promotes “getting over fears and being involved.” A elementary cast member, Clara Karnes (10 Year Old), plays the drama teacher, Ms. Darbus, and she says that participating in the musical has helped her to build her confidence and form new friendships. Another one of our lead characters, Eliana Whiting (Secondary 3), who is acting as Sharpay Evans, sums up her feeling about the musical by stating, “Pulling together all the loose ends to make everything work is the best part. It promotes a community; one where everyone can help everyone and it’s just a fun way to practice and expand your talents.”

At a risk of sounding cheesy, I’m going to quote our musical here and say… “We’re All In This Together.” Our parents, staff, city and especially our students are truly amazing. They are supportive, talented and hard working and I am so lucky to be able to work alongside them. Without each and every one of them this would not be possible. I’m going to end with one last quote from our show, “Win or lose, we’re a team,” and thanks to our outstanding community this production has been one giant win!