For theatre students, there was only one real choice of destination for the 50th Theatre tour: New York City. And with the location of the tour decided, Bill Church, the director of the theatre program, set out to find the right show to perform in the unofficial capital city of American theatre. The answer presented itself over the summer when Hunter Bell came to lead a master class at Interlochen Arts Camp and he struck up a conversation with Bill Church. Bell mentioned that he was adapting "[title of show]" for a larger cast of high school performers and a collaboration quickly began to unfold.
Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen created and performed in the one-act musical "[title of show]" for the New York Musical Theater Festival in 2004 and eventually found success on Broadway, with the show running more than one hundred performances. Originally written for a cast of four characters, the show chronicles its own creation as Bell and Bowen struggle to create an original musical. Church went to work with Bell and Bowen to add an ensemble that would enhance the action while maintaining the original story line. The Academy cast also had a great deal of creative input throughout the rehearsal process. Through regular conversations and video chats with Church and the cast, the show's creators remained engaged throughout and Bowen even made the trip to Interlochen to work with students directly as the pieces started coming together.
For the theatre students, the collaboration gave them a new perspective on the creative process. "They saw themselves as active participants in bringing a production to life in New York," said Church. "For many, this is the ultimate goal of their career, and we were able to give them a taste of that while they are still in high school. My hope is that every student who participated saw that they had the ability and the work ethic to find their place in the professional theatre world."
After performing the show in the familiar confines of the Harvey Theatre, the students, faculty and staff boarded a bus and travelled to New York. On Friday, November 16, Interlochen students opened their four performance run in New York City, with most of the original Broadway cast watching from the audience.
"This is the first show that I have ever done in New York," said Matthew Brouillard, who played the role of Jeff in Interlochen's production of "[title of show]." Working with the original writer and lyricist and then coming to New York to perform with them in the audience has been a once in a lifetime opportunity. And our process of creating this new version is kind of like the experience they had in creating it."
After seeing the performance Bell felt that the Interlochen production stayed true to the original while offering something new. "I am thrilled and totally moved. The performance not only met my expectations, it exceeded them. I trusted Bill - and I trusted the students. That's why I felt comfortable putting this show in their hands and giving them carte blanche to create this version, and it was astounding. The cast and ensemble did a beautiful job and I am very proud of the results."
Looking back on the effort, Bill Church expressed interest pursuing other similar creative collaborations in the future. "I have always thought of Interlochen as a place where new work could be created. In many ways we have the perfect incubator in which writers and composers can experiment - a safe and artistically supported environment, high quality performance venues and resources, and lots of talented and motivated students who are eager to work and hungry for all opportunities that come their way."