May Adrales, director of the program, came across High School Play: A Nostalgia Fest by Vichet Chum, through her colleague Rob Melrose, artistic director of the Alley Theatre in Texas where the play was first produced.
“Tears sprung to my eyes when Rob told me about a monologue by the character Rich,” she recalled. “I knew I needed to read this play.”
Less than two years later, High School Play premiered in New York on Fordham Theatre’s Mainstage on Oct. 5, and was developed with the help of a key collaborator—the playwright himself.
‘The Theater Capital of the World’
Chum, a rising star who has produced work at some of the most reputable regional theaters in the country, was excited to explore the piece with skilled actors who are close in age to high schoolers.
“I think there’s something unique about working in a space that is educational and at the same time, immersed in the theater capital of the world,” he said of working with Fordham students. “That makes for a very informed and dynamic process.”
For students, the chance to work directly with a playwright of Chum’s caliber was exciting.
“It is thrilling to create a character and be able to ask the playwright any questions we have directly,” said Grace Walworth, a senior in the theater program, who plays the role of Kailee, one of the romantic leads.
A Dynamic Work
The play centers on a competitive high school theater troupe in Riverside, Texas, that is reeling from loss while putting up a new show.
“Once I read it, I was immersed in the terrifying and wondrous world of high school, filled with these smart, funny, and irresistible characters,” Adrales said.
While there will always be room for more classic plays, Adrales stressed the importance of bringing in dynamic, courageous works by current writers and artists in New York City to help create meaningful experiences for the students. The production is also directed by Cristina Angeles, resident director of Broadway hit SIX: The Musical.
Broadway Director: ‘Next Time You See Me, You’ll Be Paid To’
The relationships built on this project are ones that students and faculty alike hope will continue beyond their time at Fordham.
Angeles told the students at an Oct. 7 talkback that she expects to work with them again.
“Next time you see me, you’ll be paid to,” said Angeles, who is also the associate resident director at Roundabout Theatre Company.
Chum echoed the message, and told students not to be shy about reaching out.
“Don’t pretend not to know me later,” he said to the cast during the talkback. “This is why these things happen—so you can email me later and say ‘Can I audition for your thing?’ That’s the way this works.”