The thespians of Lakewood Ranch High School are Broadway-bound. Well, off-Broadway, but still.
It is the culmination of months of work for 25 students who wrote, choreographed and adapted Broadway tunes to an original musical titled “Exhibit of the Mind.” On March 20, the students will perform their show at the TADA! Original Youth Theater of New York City.
Roxane Caravan, the theater director at Lakewood Ranch, has a former student who works at TADA, and the two decided to collaborate on the project. Caravan’s students would create a musical with help from TADA’s teaching artists, and then they would perform the show in New York City.
Caravan said the process of putting together an original musical with a room full of high school students is totally different from the typical musical production process.
You are taking something literally from page to stage.
Roxane Caravan, musical theater teacher at Lakewood Ranch
“What makes ‘Exhibit of the Mind’ unique is that it’s really what is considered to be a devised piece of theater. ... It came from scratch,” Caravan said. “You are taking something literally from page to stage.”
The show revolves around the theme of things people think but do not say. In the performance, the mind is presented as an art gallery, filled with exhibits. Each student is an ensemble member, and instead of a classic story arc, the show is a collection of reflections.
Students wrote about the theme in journals, turned those journals entries into monologues and scenes, and then TADA’s artists helped incorporate Broadway songs into the show. Lots of debate and discussion and voting determined which scenes ultimately made it into the show.
In a show filled with the personal thoughts and experiences of the 20-something students who put it together, Dana Cox, 17, provided the most personal moment.
We handle it a lot more carefully because it’s our peers and we want to honor each other’s stories.
Lakewood Ranch Student Alyssa Ness
Cox has alopecia, an auto-immune disease that causes her hair to fall out. Fed up with trying to hide it, she and her friends took clippers one night and shaved her head bald. Cox relates that story through a monologue in “Exhibit of the Mind,” a scene punctuated with Cox pulling her wig off to show her bald head before the cast breaks into a rendition of “I Am My Own Invention.”
“I’m essentially saying I am my own invention, and that I do not need to be afraid of what I look like and that I can still be a good person with or without hair,” said Cox, who performs the rest of the show after her monologue without a wig.
Alyssa Ness, 18, said the play is different because students know the songs and monologues revolve around their classmates’ personal experiences.
“We handle it a lot more carefully because it’s our peers and we want to honor each other’s stories,” Ness said.