The cast of the Lakewood Ranch High School's production of Shout!. Directed by Roxane Caravan.
Roxane Caravan of Lakewood Ranch High School in Florida directed the first production of Shout! I asked her in April 2007 if she'd be interesting testing out the show for us; little did she know what she was getting into. Now that everything is said and done, I asked her some questions about the process.
I have been directing musicals for over ten years, but I have been involved in musical theatre all of my life. I consider myself to be a musical theatre junky.
I tend to be drawn to classical musicals that seem to speak to people of all ages and have stood the test of time. I love Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, the Busby Berkley musicals and movies, but I also appreciate Sondheim, Lippa, Jason Robert Brown, and some of the contemporary works as well. I could never pick a favorite, but I could probably come up with a top 10 (maybe!).
We have students on all levels. I always tell my students in the beginning of the year in our musical theatre class that some of you are here because you have well trained voices, some of you are trained dancers, and some of you are strong actors eager to expand your theatrical spectrum, and we will utilize all of your strengths and work on improving your weaknesses to make you all more well-rounded performers.
The first thing I did was hold the most untraditional audition for a musical by telling the students to prepare an a cappella audition piece, and I also taught the opening number to the show and had the students sing it in SATB to hear if they were able to keep a pitch while singing harmony. Once we cast the show, I had CD's created for every song and every part so that each student had a rehearsal CD to work on their individual part. We also spend alot of time working separately in groups learning parts and would then come together.
About two weeks before our show went up, the kids came in for a marathon weekend. They shuffled into the drama room and had the 'deer in the headlights' look and were very down. We still had a fair amount of music to cover that weekend, but what we had was very solid; however, they were still feeling overwhelmed. So, we decided to have some circle time to regroup both personally and as a cast and crew, and then it all came together.
It was magical! I've never worked with a more cohesive cast of students, and I feel that the book and the music lead the way. The music is so beautiful and the message is so universal.
The response was overwhelming. Our audiences are very diverse ranging from high school students coming to see the show for extra credit to retired couples in our community hoping to see a classic musical. Everyone came and found something to relate to in this production both young and old. It was one of the most well received shows by our student body, and the community members loved it too!
Go for it! It was a very unique and rewarding experience for both my students and myself. If you have any reservations, contact me.
Kristin and I stand in the hallway outside her classroom. I've never been in the eye of a hurricane but I suspect it's no different: bodies are everywhere, in the classroom, out of the classroom, talking to parents, running, walking, dancing. Excitement surrounds us, bounces off the floor, the walls, the ceiling. The noise reaches up to unknown decibels. There's a greenroom of sorts, but there's no containing the thirty plus students waiting to put on a show.
I look at Kristin and grin. "This is what Theatre should be," I say. She grins back as two eleven-year-olds dash up to show us their costumes.
For the middle school test production of Shout! the students range in age from 11 to 13. Many have never been on stage before, and certainly they've never tackled singing a cappella before. They've only been able to rehearse two afternoons a week. When they sing, they look at the floor. If they forget a note or a lyric they look toward Kristin with wide eyes. They don't know how to project. They can't hold four part harmony.
And it's a wonderful production.
As we've started to share Shout! with teachers there are two polar reactions: "That sounds amazing!" or "My students will never be able to do that." One teacher actually dropped the script with horror at the prospect of trying a cappella with her students.
But the thing is, this isn't about a script or a score. It's not about words on the page or notes on a staff. It's not about a cappella or tracks. This is about giving students an experience. And Shout! is an experience like no other.
Kristin watches as her students swirl in and out of the classroom. There's no way any of them can sit still, they're about to burst. "I love how excited they are," she says. "It makes me want to cry."
"I read all the time that theatre doesn't change lives anymore," I say, "That it doesn't have any impact."
Kristin looks right at me. "Here it does," she says. "It gives them so much. There are kids here who don't go out for anything else at school. A little bit of the spotlight, a little attention… it does amazing things for their self esteem." This is extremely clear. We're watching the evidence in action, spinning around us.
There's a girl who sings a couple of solos in the show. She looks down most of the time when she's on stage, this is how shy she is. I tell her at the end of the dress rehearsal to not worry about looking at the audience, look above them, imagine there's a smiley face high on the back wall. During the show I see her fiercely fighting her need to look down. She looks above the crowd, straight to the back wall of the gym. Her voice is clear and loud.
Another student, who throughout the process would only come on stage for the last song, asked right before the show if she could sit on stage for the whole show with everyone else.
This is what theatre should be: excitement, anticipation, fear, energy, courage, joy, pain, heart, laughter, tears.
This is what Shout! gives students. It's not about the perfect production, or "My students could never do that." It's about the theatrical experience. The experience they will remember for years to come.
Click below to hear 13 year old Kathleen sing My Brother Andy. It's amazing!