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The Truth About High School Theatre

By Natalie Parker:

If you’re surprised by the fact that the traditional high school institution known as the “drama club” is frequently misrepresented in today’s film and television, then let me introduce myself to you. My name is Aspiring Triple-Threat, and I am here to debunk common misperceptions about the most fabulous extracurricular of all time. I will present to you several myths about high school theatre, and the facts that either prove or disprove them. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll be itching to pretentiously scold your friends when they mix up “theater” and “theatre.” Now, without further ado, curtains up!

  1. Myth: Every high school theatre club has one girl who is an overly talented, vengeful bitch that dresses in bright pink and carries around a chihuahua in a little purse like Sharpay from the obviously-totally-true High School Musical movie series.

False! There’s a general agreement among high school thespians that High School Musical, while fun to watch at one a.m. after a cast party, when you are delirious and hopped up on the pure adrenaline rush of impersonating people you have never met, contains little to no truths about the reality of high school musicals. In actuality, every female triple threat acts in a far more sinister manner than Sharpay’s blunt bullying: they are all so, SO poisonously nice that it’s nauseating to even imagine making fun of the bitches that they truly are. It’s clever psychological manipulation.

2. Myth: The female actresses in high school drama clubs outnumber the male actors ten-to-one and can therefore easily rip them from limb to limb like vultures dive-bombing the carcass of a lion.

True! Every boy who joins theatre is incredibly courageous for this reason. They can barely see through the disgusting clouds of hairspray that linger everywhere and have to endure constant biting gossip because OBVIOUSLY I DESERVED THE PART MORE THAN SAMANTHA DID, I CAN HIT A HIGH C-SHARP, LISTEN! Where are the non-binary people, you ask? Well, they’re all offstage, working in the only position with real power: the stage managers.

3. Myth: Despite constantly pathetically begging for funding like Matthew Morrison’s character in Glee, every drama club is able to pull together ridiculously expensive stage decorations, including a lavish jungle, complete with vines the performers can swing from, to use to randomly perform Katy Perry’s hit song “Roar” without an audience.

**sighs** False, obviously. Honestly, screw Glee.

4. Myth: Every boy in every high school theatre company is gay.

False! Only seven out of every ten boys in the drama club is a member of the queer community. Okay, maybe eight. Fine, nine. But there are still straight boys! Boys, if you join high school theatre, then I promise you won’t be alone. We really need more male members. WE NEED MORE MALE MEMBERS!!!

5. Myth: The boys in the theatre productions can dance.

False! Because they have not been drilled with a never-ceasing idea that they have to be ladylike and graceful since birth, even the ones that take dance classes outside of school have extreme trouble completing even the most basic steps. However, it is strange and sad indeed when a girl is unable to flawlessly execute right and left quadruple jazz pirouettes, battements that nearly kick their heads off, and the entirety of Swan Lake.

6. Myth: All high school actors speak exclusively in show tunes.

False! We are also fluent in stage directions and catty comments about our fellow actors’ performances.

7. Myth: High school theatre is a meritocracy wherein those at the “bottom” are easily able to acquire skills and attain leading roles.

False! As every high school theatre kid knows, the director picks their favorites from your grade when you are freshmen and never wavers from them, even if they decide to prioritize other commitments over the high school musical (unless, of course, you happen to be male, in which case they will always work to give you the best part possible). In my freshman year, there was a girl that my director loved so much that she missed eighteen straight rehearsals for college auditions and still performed as Roxie Hart in our production of Chicago. Every member of the ensemble (read: the un-chosen, un-blessed multitude who unfailingly came to every rehearsal) had to sit there and watch as my director publicly applauded that girl for managing to attend a rehearsal when she had an audition the same day and encouraged us to show the same level of commitment. True story!

8. Myth: Drama clubs are cults that are always hungry for new members to aid them in performing their Satanic rituals.

True! Every year, seniors graduate, and, every year, like drug-sniffing German Shepherds, we go on the hunt to find our weakest, most suggestible friends and impress them into the ranks of our drama club. Once they swear an oath to Patti LuPone and Ethel Merman, they are told the secret words of the cultish chant that is a vital part of the Energy Circle ceremony, which we perform backstage every opening night.

9. Myth: “Theater” and “theatre” are the same word.

False! This is a common pet peeve among high school thespians. A “theater” is a building, a physical structure, and “theaTRE” (pronounced by stressing the last syllable and dramatically gesticulating for emphasis) is the ART that is performed within a theater. Get it right!

In the end, it isn’t the end of the world if you fail to understand all of the above things about high school theatre—it’s just the end of all universes, known and unknown, parallel and perpendicular. Too often, we are parodied and ridiculed, and we deserve a voice. Once you give that voice to us, we promise to serenade you with a hundred functionally identical, off-key renditions of “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” from Funny Girl, which You’ll Never Be On Broadway Magazine named “unfortunately, the most popular musical audition song for teenagers, right ahead of Don Mclean’s punishingly long song ‘American Pie’ and the ‘Kars4Kids’ jingle.” By the end of our performance, you will surely be wincing inwardly but outwardly applauding, in accordance with the general reaction to our freelance hallway dramaturgy. Bravo, thespians, take a bow.

Additional Note: Boys, I’m serious, go join your drama club. Any director would be perfectly willing to give you a leading role just for signing up, and you’ll doubtlessly be paired with a Broadway-ready supermodel costar. It’s a guarantee.


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