13 the musical for middle school

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August 22, 2011
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Here's my 2nd try at posting this!I'm thinking about putting on 13 with my middle school students this year. Ironically (unfortunately) I think the show may inappropriate (language, themes) to be put on at a public school. Anyone have any thoughts on this , or how to "clean" up the show?Also, I saw the show on Broadway, and realize there was a good deal of material cut from the version that is available for production. Is it possible to make the same cuts? It seems to make sense that if the creators made these cuts for a more successful show, that they intended to keep these cuts for successful future productions. I know shows are to be performed as written, but it seems these cuts would enhance the show. Any ideas?
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January 25, 2021

The best way to do "13" is to do it straight-out with no changes to the script (also, that's the law), AND to offer supplemental curricula for the cast AND the student audience (assuming your school does an in-school performance for the student body). When we did this, I developed supplemental curricula for the cast and the student body surrounding the more challenging themes in the show. We talked about the issues of anti-Semitism, homophobia, ableism, bullying, peer pressure, sexual peer pressure, slut shaming, and gossip. We also talked about the challenges of simply being a middle school student: longing to fit in, longing to stand out (but not too much), figuring out who your friends are, the pain of realizing that not all of your "playmates" (from elementary school) always continue on as your "friends" as you enter your tweens and teens. We held open sessions around this topic, and students wrote essays responding to thoughtful questions. We send home "discussion questions" for the cast to have with their parents, and then the cast did a panel at a middle school assembly where they spoke openly about these issues in front of the entire student body. The kids went into the performance very well-prepared for the "edgy" material they were about to see, and they handled it with great maturity. I am pasting some of the discussion questions we used below. Please feel free to use these. (I did something similar when I directed a middle school production of "Grease.") "13" and the supplemental curricula I created were a huge, raving success at my school. The kids had a blast, the parents were thrilled, and my colleagues and supervisors absolutely loved it. 

13  Discussion Questions

  1. After his parents’ divorce, Evan Goldman is forced to leave his home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, his school, and all of his friends, and move to Appleton, Indiana: a town where he doesn’t know anyone.  None of the kids in his new school have ever had a Jewish classmate or been to a Bar Mitzvah.  Living in New York City, we all get to experience the joys of a vibrant and diverse community.  How would it feel to be forced to move to a place where no one had ever heard of your race, your religion, or your culture?
  2. After “Invitations,” Evan is pressured by Brett to rip up Patrice’s invitation to his Bar Mitzvah.  Evan knows that Patrice has been his only real friend since his parents divorced and he moved to a new town.  Yet the fear of being rejected by the popular kids at school drives Evan to rip up Patrice’s invitation and break her heart in front of the entire school.  How realistic is this?  Can you think of a time when you were pressured to do something that you knew was wrong, but you did it anyway?  What’s worse: doing something that you know is wrong, or being a social outcast?
  3. After Evan’s betrayal, Archie tries to convince Patrice to give Evan another chance.  During “What It Means To Be A Friend,” Patrice talks about just that.  What does “being a real friend” mean to you? 
  4. In the beginning of the show, we see Lucy as a stereotypical “mean girl.”  But later on in “Getting Ready,” we see deeper layers of Lucy’s character revealed.  We learn that Lucy is far from a one-dimensional character and that she has felt for a very long time that she lives in Kendra’s shadow: that she has made every sacrifice for Kendra’s success, at the expense of her own.  These are the frustrations driving Lucy to act the way she does.  So, what makes a bully a “bully”?  What are some of the factors in a person’s life (home, family, school, friends, etc.) that might cause them to treat someone else poorly?
  5. We know based on the witty writing of his lines that Archie is a bright, funny, caring, and, at times even sarcastic, character.  Even though the rest of the school sees him as a victim, he never sees himself as one. Why?  How must it feel for Archie to constantly be misperceived by those around him?  How can we ensure that people with disabilities are treated equally in real life?
  6. While preparing for their date at the movies, Kendra and Brett experience very different emotions.  While Brett is bragging to his friends about his upcoming make-out session and is thrilled at how this will boost his reputation, Kendra is afraid that it will ruin hers.  Why does this double standard exist?  Why do girls and boys face different labels and different judgments for the same actions?  Is this true in real life? Is it fair? What can we do to stop "slut shaming"?
  7. In “It Can’t Be True,” Lucy starts a rumor about Kendra, which Cassie, Molly, and Charlotte then continue to spread.  The rumor gets bigger and bigger as each person puts her own spin on it until it gets completely out of control.  Does this happen in real life?  What can we do to stop lies from being told and to stop rumors from hurting people in our own social circles?
  8. Early on in the play, Patrice explains her position as an outcast by saying, “I don’t read what they read, watch what they watch, shop where they shop, or think like they think.”  What role does the media (and the types of media we choose to consume) play in the way we see ourselves, and the ways in which others perceive us?
  9. In the song "Tell Her," Brett says "This is starting to sound a little gay," when what he really means is, "This is starting to sound a little dumb."  At this point in the script, we already know that Brett is not a nice character, and that he often says insensitive things.  Have you ever heard someone use "gay" as a negative adjective in real life?  What does it say about the person who says "that's so gay" when what they really mean is "that's so [insert negative adjective here]?"  How might this make people in the LGBTQ+ community, or friends of those in the LGBTQ+ community, feel?  How can we combat this incorrect usage of the word "gay"?

August 23, 2011
HI Arthur. My (private K-12) community teaching theater just produced 13 in its entirety. We have never done anything quite so edgy or full of inuendo. I have been building trust with my audience for years and my kids (and myself) were ready to do something new and fresh. Most importantly, I had the band and the vocalists to pull off this tasty piece of work - thank God! It was this year or forget about it... I went back and forth with the idea of editing, but in my estimation, if you edit anything on the fence - you remove the plot entirely. My take, was to play the material as written in an endearing and innocent way and issue a warning among ticket buyers with a PG-13 label. Cheeky as I am, I do believe that the warning boosted ticket sales...and I love a Hollywood ending - but, alas...there were those who came away with their feathers a little ruffled. Haters beware - the rest of us enjoyed a bit of genious wrapped in a sweet little tortillia of middle school life - and we laughed until the cows came home. (I say - good news! Don't bury your head in the sand - and if you listen to 1 Katy Perry song (love her!) we are not introducing new information to the scene.) The kids and my families were thrilled at the opportunity to tell this funny - real life - story of coming of age in the age of now. The music is brilliant and the energy is flourecent and contagious. I am so glad I made the opportunity to honor 13 in its entirety. I LOVE it! I think editing would feel wrong, public (certainly Catholic) middle school may not be the optimal venue. But, a concert of songs may be perfect. God knows we wouldn't want to admit that anyone considers "the tounge" in middle school! :/