When students take the stage for Garden City High School’s fall musical this weekend, they'll be presenting something they helped create from the ground up.
For the first time, the school has collaborated with Theatrical Rights Worldwide (TRW), a production licensing company, to develop a school edition of the 2018 off-Broadway musical “Miss You Like Hell.” Theater teacher Barbara Hilt said she believed GCHS will be the first high school to perform the show.
Hilt said the roots of the opportunity began several years ago, when she was going table to table looking for theatrical licensing companies. Keeping in mind Garden City’s diverse student body, she was looking for scripts written for Latinx, Filipino, and Vietnamese students and came across a representative from TRW. Looking over a copy of the script of “Miss You Like Hell,” the two discussed GCHS creating the school edition of the play.
“I thought that would be terribly exciting for me and for our students! Many times, there are wonderful modern scripts that students would love to perform but some of the content is too much for high school students. My students want to perform the latest musicals, and I try to provide that opportunity for them whenever I can,” Hilt said in an email.
The play tells the story of an estranged mother and daughter. The mother, an undocumented Mexican immigrant on the verge of deportation, takes her daughter on a road trip across the United States, where both women meet Americans of different backgrounds but shared dreams, according to a news release.
Hilt said she originally had a different musical planned for this semester but was excited about working on a play that students could relate to personally. Baby photos of the cast, crew and pit members are projected on set during the show to highlight the play’s themes of family and found families.
“I definitely think that this is a show that very few communities could produce,” Hilt said. “One of the requirements of licensing the production is that the lead actress who plays (the mother) Beatriz has to be fluent in Spanish. The story revolves around these two women but also around Beatriz’ struggle with becoming a legal U.S. citizen.”
Hilt said she and her sister, GCHS family and consumer science teacher Robyn Hilt, took to the script on their own first, marking down suggested cuts and edits more appropriate to a school setting. From there, they brought their students into the discussion, taking their opinions into consideration, she said. Once the final edits were in, the department submitted the altered script to the licensing company, which in turn submitted it to the musical’s writers, “In The Heights” writer Quiara Alegría Hudes and singer-songwriter Erin McKeown.
The editing process was balancing act between honoring authorial intent, preserving the heart of the story and scaling back the show’s more adult elements. The school edition script takes out the majority of the show’s curse words and rolls back some of the more adult content, such as a part of the two main characters’ conversation before a large fight.
“We didn’t want such an adult relationship between the mother and Manuel to be uncomfortable for the actors or the audience,” Hilt said in an email.
But the process also meant more freedom, Hilt said. All licensed scripts require changes from the show’s writers, and not all of them are granted. In most cases, this level of creative control isn’t possible, she said.
“In hearing the students talk about the show and what it means to them, there are definitely elements of the production that are specific to them on a personal level,” Hilt said in an email.
The GCHS drama department will present two more performances of “Miss You Like Hell” this weekend at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the high school’s auditorium. Seating for the show is limited and some seats will be on stage. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and can be purchased at the door or at www.gchsdrama.booktix.com. The musical may not be appropriate for young children and parental guidance is needed.
Contact Amber Friend at firstname.lastname@example.org.