BWW Blog: The Trojan Players' NEXT TO NORMAL - Just Another Day

BWW Blog: The Trojan Players' NEXT TO NORMAL - Just Another Day Meet Hana Smith, senior at Trinity Valley School and Director/Choreographer of "Next to Normal." Discover a bit about the genesis of this project as she tells us how a dream became (and is still becoming) a reality.

In order to fully understand this project, I think it would be best to first explain how I got the idea to produce and direct "Next to Normal." It started in a car ride with one of my closest friends: we were entertaining the idea that our school's drama program actually had the perfect cast for the show, but at the time we also realized how unlikely it would be for something like this to come to fruition. As the year progressed, we eventually crafted a little presentation to pitch our show to the head of our school's drama department. Of course, the primary reaction was that this feat would be near impossible, but after several meetings we were able to add "Next to Normal" into our 2013-2014 season.

When I learned we had obtained the rights to perform the show, I was obviously thrilled. The show is iconic, and to be able to at least attempt putting it on is an accomplishment in its own right. As someone who is primarily an actor, getting to make directing choices for the first time is such an exciting experience. While I am learning some incredible things about theatre, I have also met several difficulties with this show, especially in the casting process. From the very beginning of this process, I was focused on the actors that would fill the roles. One of the major components that drew me to the show is that the roles would highlight some very bright talents at my school.

As I've experienced with the casting of any show, there was always going to be some sort of controversy. Because I explicitly chose this show with most of the cast already in mind, we opted to not have auditions for every role, but just for Henry and Dr. Fine. Also, because this would be produced as a "senior project," as opposed to the high school-wide main stage musical, the casting did not have to be completely conventional in terms of high school drama.

I can now happily say we have a full cast and are well into music rehearsals. There are, however, a few interesting twists we've incorporated into the show. For one, we actually split the role of Dr. Madden/Fine into two separate actors. In the original production, one male actor plays both doctors. In this production, Dr. Madden will be female. I realized we not only had a very capable actor to fill the role, but making this doctor a female would really play up the One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest allusion in the song "Didn't I See This Movie?" and the parallels between Diana/Dr. Madden and McMurphy/Nurse Ratched. I think it's little things like this that will really make the show sparkle, aside from it being pioneered completely by teenagers.

As we move forward in production, I know we will all face more than a few obstacles tackling a show that involves serious issues like mental illness and grief. I mean, even in the past year we've faced so much opposition in just putting on "Next to Normal." However, I am extremely confident that our incredible cast and crew will be able to bring these difficult topics into discussion while molding the areas of educational and experimental theatre. I am honestly excited beyond words to show our audiences the hard work we already have, and will continue to put in over the next few months!

Check back next week for a post from the Trojan Players' own Diana and Dan! Discover what they're looking forward to, what they're fearful of, and what it's like to play such iconic roles.

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Guest Blogger: NEXT TO NORMAL The Trojan Players are the group of talented, high-school actors who perform under the umbrella of Trinity Valley School. However, this marks the first time (since Gene Sessa’s arrival as resident director) that the Trojan Players will put on a musical production with only students performing and directing. This small cast, rock musical is the perfect outlet for senior Hana Smith to produce astounding theatre and blaze the trail for future student-led productions. Not only are these students putting on a difficult show, but they are also directing and producing it entirely on their own. Follow this talented group as they embark on the journey that is “Next to Normal”.

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