NBC's 'SMASH' MAKE A MUSICAL, School #11 - Stroud High School, Oklahoma City

NBC's 'SMASH' MAKE A MUSICAL, School #11 - Stroud High School, Oklahoma City

School #11: Stroud High School

Stroud, OK

Reported by: Marty Johnson, Director of Education, iTheatrics

February 2, 2012

Stroud, Oklahoma lies about 40 minutes outside of downtown Oklahoma City. This “one stoplight” town of about 3,000 people used to be home to an outlet mall that drew lots of tourists. Then about thirteen years ago, a tornado blew through town and took the 53 store mall with it.  Nowadays the main reason people visit Stroud is to attend sporting events at the brand new recreation center. But if my workshop at the high school is any indication, there will be another great reason to visit this town in May –  to see the first ever musical at Stroud High School.

Recently Stroud High School’s principal Joe VanTuyl, choir teacher, Saundra Arnold and English teacher, Linda Thomas, had discussed starting a musical theater program at the school. So when the opportunity to apply for NBC’s ‘SMASH’ MAKE A MUSICAL came along, they hoped that, if accepted, this would be the jump start they needed. When I arrived at the school, it was clear that the teachers and students were ready and excited for the challenge ahead.

One of the first things I noticed was that most of the workshop participants, a mix of high school and middle school students, were wearing Isaac Project t-shirts. When I asked what the Isaac Project was, Ms. Arnold explained, "My seven-year-old son Isaac, passed away one year ago this Monday. He was such a kind, accepting, and wonderful child that we have created an organization that promotes tolerance and love for others in his memory. We are selling these t-shirts to raise money to publish a book that celebrates Isaac and who he was." I was speechless. But the students and teachers made it clear this wasn't a sad situation; the Isaac Project is an opportunity to honor Isaac and celebrate everything he gave to the community. And they all embodied what Isaac stood for throughout the workshop. These students and teachers are well-prepared to create a kind and loving environment in which they will work together. I have no doubt they will find success in “NBC’s ‘Smash’: Make A Musical.”

We end most of our workshops discussing which show the school wants to perform. Ms. Arnold already had one in mind: Fiddler on the Roof JR.  I told her I loved that show, and I asked why she thought it would be a good choice for the school. Beyond simply enjoying the musical, she had a few reasons.

First of all, there are practically no Jewish people in Stroud, so she thought the musical would be a great way for her students and greater community to explore different religious views and traditions. Secondly, she felt her students would grow from learning how discrimination takes on many forms (not just racial) and how different groups of people have dealt with it throughout history. The third reason was since most of the young people in Stroud leave the town at some point, to explore the world or attend school, Ms. Arnold believes the families of Stroud could empathize and learn from Tevye as he deals with his own daughters growing up and leaving home. These are all great reasons to put on this show, but there was even one more.  Last, but certainly not least, the themes of family, tolerance, and moving forward in the face of adversity which are found in Fiddler on the Roof JR. are also the exact goals of the Isaac Project.

Perhaps the best reasons to produce a musical I have ever heard.  I can't wait to return and see how it all turns out.  And yes, I will be wearing my Isaac Project t-shirt.

“NBC’s ‘Smash’: Make A Musical” program is administered by iTheatrics under the supervision of Timothy Allen McDonald.  For more information, or to apply to become a part of the program, logon to www.MAKEAMUSICAL.ORG.