Most Scarsdale High School seniors would probably argue that their high school experience was not anything like the 2006 Disney Channel film “High School Musical.” Upon hearing that the film would be adapted for the senior class play, however, more than 50 students eagerly signed up.
When time became limited to find a director, Molly Bochner and Simran Ruta were asked by the Class Play Committee to direct this year’s play. “We were really excited to do it,” Bochner told the Inquirer, “so we said ‘Yes’.” Both students have experience in the world of performing arts: Bochner has been dancing since she was 3 yeas old, and has acted in many plays. Ruta — the current Drama Club president — has been doing theater since she was very young.
The play was initially supposed to be “Schoolhouse Rock Junior,” a live version of the educational animated series that first aired in the 1970s. After sending out an interest form and receiving minimal enthusiasm in return, Bochner and Ruta emailed the grade about a change of plans: “Instead of doing ‘Schoolhouse Rock Jr.’, we will be doing ‘High School Musical Jr.’ for the senior class play!” The email also provided information on how students could audition. Bochner explained that there was much more excitement when students learned about the new play. “Everyone loves ‘High School Musical’,” she said. “It's such a great way to get everyone together one last time after a year of being separated,” adding that from the director’s perspective, she sees students forming better friendships, calling it a “little community.”
Throughout high school, Bochner always looked forward to acting in the class play, not directing, yet she had a change of heart. “I was originally hesitant to become director, but then I realized the senior class play is everyone coming together to do something that is out of their comfort zones,” said Bochner, noting that most students in this year’s play have never acted before. She added, “Being in the play would not be anything new for me, but directing is something new.”
Bochner has experience acting in several plays both in and outside of school, but she has never directed a production. “I have never been in a position like this,” she said, adding that although it could be stressful at times, she is enjoying her role as director. Since becoming director, Bochner has learned about the high level of involvement necessary to produce a one-hour play, from teaching choreography and acting under pressure to changing scenes on the spot to fit actors’ skills. “It is such a big commitment,” she said.
Play rehearsal takes place most weekday afternoons, with some practices lasting up to four hours. For many seniors, reentering the school auditorium each day for rehearsal is an unusual experience; all SHS seniors participate in Senior Options, a four-week internship program sponsored by the school that goes beyond the SHS walls. “It’s a little weird being in the building,” senior and cast member Dylan Tuchman said, “especially because we didn’t even have a full year of school.”
Although classes and finals are over for seniors, some students have been forced to skip rehearsal because of other commitments, whether for Senior Options or sports practice. “I definitely feel really badly about missing practice, but I have a commitment to lacrosse,” said Victoria Wilson, captain of the girls varsity lacrosse team. “Simran and Molly do give us resources like music sheets and videos of choreography, so I can catch up as needed.”
The class play is well known for being produced entirely by students; music, choreography and scenes are all led by seniors. Everything in the play, from lights and curtains, to sound cues and prop movements are managed by the theater tech crew, a group composed solely of seniors.
On June 7, just four days before opening night, the tech crew led a rehearsal with Bochner and Ruta for the first time. The play was constantly paused to gauge where props should be located on and off stage, in addition to figuring out all the lighting and sound variables. Over the course of a nearly four-hour practice, the seniors polished the behind-the-scenes work, but covered only 30 minutes of the actual play. “I did not realize tech rehearsal would be so slow, but it just shows how much is involved in the play,” said Ruta.
She continued: “A year ago, we would have never thought we would be able to host a play again,” Ruta said, noting that singing was one of the prime means by which COVID-19 spread. “[The play] is giving our grade some closure and a chance to come together before we all separate.”
To purchase tickets, patrons can visit MySchoolBucks or watch the play via livestream. The cast will perform “High School Musical Jr.” Friday and Saturday, June 11 and 12, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, June 13, at 2 p.m.