In the Making

Summer School at East High: The Start of Something New.

Posted by cjaxon on August 10, 2010

High School Musical is over now, which means all my major projects for the summer have come to a close. What an experience! Who’d have thought I would have enjoyed performing in a cliché Disney show so much??

I played Ryan Evans, twin brother to Sharpay, who together are the STARS of the Drama Club. So without any further ado, here’s

Becoming Ryan: The Many Faces of Fabulous.

The first of 6 different outfits. This show had to be the most costume changes for a single character I've ever done.

Audition outfit! You know it's what you've "Been Lookin' For."

This one was probably my favorite. That's a shirt that looks and feels great. (Thanks to Patrick for lending it to me. In fact, half of all my costumes actually belong to him...)

Bop to the Top: So fierce... ? I wore this to Sunday School one morning as some free advertising for the show, and one kid asked me "Why are you dressed like Michael Jackson??"

What the pictures don’t show is that each outfit had matching socks and shoes… I’ve never had to change socks so many times during a show. And those HATS! When I told people who I was playing in the show, none of them said “Oh that metro guy?” Or “Oh, that really good dancer?” Which are how I think of Ryan. No, no. They all said “Oh, that guy  with all the hats!!”

What I’ve learned

To all the cast peeps that might read this, no offense, but I’ll be really honest for a second. It was a challenging at first to go back to working on a show at the highschool/community theatre pace after being at OCU for three years. But don’t get me wrong, it was totally worth it. I loved getting to watch these teenagers learn and grow, develop into their characters. Especially some of these ensemble kids, who gave performances as fully developed characters. Even though we were all over-satiated with Disney magic by the last weekend, everyone found a way to enjoy giving the show. And here’s the thing: it was a good show, and something I am truly proud of.

We worked hard. There were times I was sure harmonies would disappear forever. It seemed like every week we spent Monday re-learning what we’d ended with the past Friday. And with people coming and going because of camps and vacations, we were constantly re-teaching things. But we not only pulled it off in the end, we knocked it out of the park.

One of my favorite things about working on the show was honing some comedic ad-lib. I’ve never ad-libbed, added lines, or left the script behind as a launching pad like I did with this show. It was largely due to Taylor (playing Sharpay) – that’s just the way it developed. We clicked pretty well playing brother and sister and playing off each other. Also, she’s brilliant, and I had to work hard just to keep up with her, which Jay (the director) warned me about from the beginning. I think I was able to hold my own.

Taylor as Sharpay. Ridiculously over-the-top? Usually. Hysterical? Definitely.

Game Time

There were other important skills I learned during the run of the show, like playing games right there on stage. This was a common habit among the leads. In fact, some nights we got pretty carried away. We were all about the show and taking care of business, but we definitely found room for playing around. It started on opening weekend when the jocks (plus Taylor, plus Cyndi) started playing tag onstage. Our first tag was a shoulder squeeze, but we realized that wouldn’t really work because John (playing Troy) did a lot shoulder-squeezing in his blocking. The next tag was a bit more interesting: the tummy poke. But then we had problems when people forgot they were “it,” or when Taylor and I would be “it,” but our characters, by nature, are isolated from the others and the game would die.

Another game was the face-swipe. It’s a variation of Tag but more like “see how many you can get during the show on anyone.” The face-swipe is a potentially awkward gesture of dragging your hand down someone else’s face. John did this to Taylor (playing Sharpay) backstage before a show one night, inadvertently daring her. “Oh, I’m so doing that to you on stage,” was her response. The trick is to either do it when no one can notice, or to find a way to justify it in your character… which is ridiculous, because only the ridiculous characters like Sharpay and Ryan would ever do this in real life. Things just escalated from there. John started swiping me during Status Quo. Taylor swiped John again at random times. Everyone swiped each other during crowd scenes and blackouts. And this wasn’t just one performance, oh no. There were regular, expected face-swipes, as seamless as any other piece of blocking. One night John, Patrick, and I ganged up on Taylor – we each swiped her about five times for her one swipe on any of us.

Dark-Sided WITCH!!!

A favorite game was trying to find as many ways to say or call someone “Dark-sided (witches).” There’s a youtube video from the show Trading Spouses of a woman who has a bit of a breakdown and calls the other family’s mom a “Dark-Sided WITCH!!!!” We joked about it backstage some, but then had to work it into the show. I managed to mutter it to Taylor several times during some of our fake arguments. She, however, straight up screamed it at me during others.

Probably the most famous of our games was a walk-on scene we had in the second act. According to the script, Sharpay and Ryan literally walk on humming a few lines of a song from earlier. She says one line to Troy and one to Gabriella, then they walk right back off.

Discostick or Britney? Gaga or Beyonce??

From the first day, Taylor said “I don’t wanna sing this. That’s dumb.” Instead she came on singing part of a Lady Gaga song, cutting off right before some pretty questionable lyrics. On opening night Taylor said to me backstage, “I’m not gonna sing Discostick tonight. They’re just not getting it.”       “Okay, well, what are you gonna do instead??”         “I don’t know, maybe some… Britney Spears or something.”             ” Yeah, yeah, and then I can do some interpretive dance or something.”       “Yeah! Perfect.”

So we walked out, changing the scene entirely, and as we left I said something like “Sharpay, are we still singing that as a mashup with Beyonce?”      The rest of the cast had no idea it was coming. It definitely caught them off guard, but they still appreciated it.

From there we tried to keep it fresh every night. We alternated and mixed up Gaga and Britney. After requests for an actual Beyonce song, we added Bootylicious, with a line about Mariah Carey. Then came an idea so brilliant, we couldn’t believe we hadn’t thought of it before: Taylor started the chorus of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone,” and I busted out with the Beyonce rap break in the middle, with the most spastic hip-hop dancing I could muster. (I’m trying to find a way to upload the video, but for now it’s only on Facebook.) It stopped the show dead in it’s tracks. The first night the entire cast nearly lost it. An ad-lib for the record books.

Sentimental Stuff

A truly unexpected result of working on this show came as I was suddenly ushered into a network, a family, of local performers. I’m now friends with most of the Poteet group, about whom I’ve heard and who have heard about me for approx. a year now. But thanks to Cyndi, John, and Taylor, I’ve gotten to know more about the Lyric people, mostly the Academy and Cyndi and Chris’s epic story. After only two months I’ve been so warmly welcomed into this wonderful group of people that I’m just kicking myself for not finding them sooner. But God’s timing is perfect. Better late than never, right?

There are so many other stories. Pie nights. Themed mic checks. That silly review that called us “Boffo!” and thought our mascot was the Wolverine. (And called me Chad Jackson.) Cyndi’s birthday party, and Dalton and Kellen’s lock-in. Jay’s incredible, unforgettable laugh at things he’s seen a hundred times. Playing NINJA. The list goes on and on.

Obviously, I had fun working on it. Obviously, I’ve made new connections. A bit more subtly, I think I’ve managed to be a positive contribution. I think I made friends with just about everyone. (I feel terrible though, when I remember there are at least five of those cheer/pom girls that I never learned the names of. There were just so many of them! I truly am sorry for that.) Even just by working on a show, I hope I’ve made a difference for the better in some people’s summers.

And no worries, new Poteet friends. I may not be performing in another show with you soon, but I will definitely be around!

After all, We’re All in This Together 🙂

Joel, Hannah, John, Keri, Taylor, and Me... obviously.



3 Responses to “Summer School at East High: The Start of Something New.”

  1. Sarah said

    You forgot something.
    “It’s not my fault I’m fabulous and I work it.”

  2. […] something about the second half of my summer, but between the President of the World post and the High School Musical post, that’s basically it. July became a month of “Work/Perform/Hang out all weekend […]

  3. Hannah said

    Chas. I just now saw this. how dare you make me miss this more than necesarry?!? just kidding. but this seriously warmed my heart.

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