BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The spring production of the Bloomfield High School Thespian Society will be staged Friday, May 19, and Saturday,
May 20, at 7:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium.
The name of the show is “Here WE Stand.” It is the sixth annual spring production, and unlike the fall and winter presentations of a straight play and musical, the spring show is a musical revue concentrating on the problems confronting modern high schoolers.
In the past, the scripts have been written by theater arts teacher Brandon Doemling with his students suggesting songs that capture adolescent angst. “Here WE Stand” is billed as an evening of song, scene and poetry.
Much of that cooperative spirit remains except that the upcoming production does not have Doemling involved. For personal reasons, he has taken a hiatus and has appointed in his place Maria Rivas, a 2016 BHS graduate.
Rivas is currently a theater arts freshman at Montclair State University. She has a double major of Spanish and theater production.
She has worked closely with Doemling. Three years ago, for the fall production of “The Crucible,” she was a stagehand. She has worked as a stage manager for BHS shows and for the winter production of “The Wiz,” working beside Doemling as assistant director.
At a rehearsal this past weekend, Rivas said Doemling told her this past fall, during the production of “A Servant of Two Masters,” that he would not be able to direct the spring show. He asked if she would direct because he did not want the students to miss the opportunity of a spring production. She agreed to direct.
She began working on the script of what would become “Here WE Stand.”
“I worked on ‘This Is Us,’ for the spring production last year in Brandon’s drama class,” she said. “I learned how to do it.”
The growing-up theme of “Here WE Stand” is standing up for oneself in the LGBTQ landscape.
“It’s about just trying to find and empower yourself,” Rivas said. “The difference with the spring production this year is that the LGBTQ is more in the forefront.”
In the story, Rivas said young people reveal to their parents their sexual orientation and come to grips with being on a different gender spectrum.
The show opens with the feeling of alienation and the song “Pompeii,” by the band Bastille. She told her cast to keep in mind when performing what happened to the citizens of Pompeii.
“In a figure of speech, some kids feel there’s no escape,” she said. “There’s another song, ‘Lifeboat,’ from the musical ‘Heather.’ It’s about popular kids bullying unpopular kids.”
She said cast members were friends with Eva Smith, the BHS sophomore who earlier this year committed suicide. Smith was a student of Doemling although not part of the theater department.
“Parts of the show hit close to home,” Rivas said.
Many of the songs are from musical theater scores but some are popular music. But most are ones to which actors and audience members will be able to relate, Rivas said.
“As a first-time director, as for the structure of Here WE Stand, there is one person throughout the show to continue the story,” Rivas said. “That character begins timidly saying, ‘Why is society telling me I can’t be what I am?’”
This same one-character device was also used to provide continuity to the 2016 spring production of “This Is Us.”
The main character in the upcoming show recites a poem written by BHS senior Kathleen Pietropaolo.
“I asked Kathleen to write a poem for the show and this is what she gave me,” Rivas said. “Originally, it had no title. She let me give it a title and the poem was then called ‘Here WE Stand.’”
The show has a cast of 17. Three are seniors. The all-student orchestra will have 20 musicians and the backstage crew is nine students.
“I worked with Brandon for eight or nine shows,” Rivas said. “This is my first time without his guidance. Almost everything about the theater I learned from him. I know I can ask him if I am taking the right steps.”
It is also a first time for many of the students putting the show together.
“A lot of these kids have not worked with me, only with Brandon,” Rivas said.
The show also has a first-time producer in BHS English teacher Lisa Marlow. But Rivas knows everything is on course.
“The kids have hit the point where they’ve seen the show and they’re excited about it,” Rivas said.
“Here WE Stand” musical direction and arrangements is by BHS senior Allan Daleus; choreography by BHS students Deanna Pandolfo and Seleste Prude; the production stage manager is BHS Freshman Benjamin Douglas: vocal direction by BHS Senior Zoe Gilmore.
The show has a running time of 100 minutes with intermission. Admission will be charged.