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Behind the scenes of this semester's

"Heathers" production


Jeremiah Hassel, Features Editor

This past month, Penn State Behrend’s theatre program hosted auditions for its annual spring show. This year, the show will be the popular musical "Heathers", the story of teenage girls living in 1989 that emphasizes high school stereotypes from the era. "Heathers" is based on the 1988 movie of the same name starring Winona Ryder.

The auditions were held on both January 21 and 22 in Behrend’s Studio Theatre and were open to any interested member of the student body. Students were asked to prepare a Broadway musical piece to perform as a part of the audition process and to provide their own sheet music for the pianist that was brought in. At the actual audition, students were also asked to read scenes from the script with other students auditioning.

        “I was trying to find a show that was girl-heavy because we have so many really talented young women, and I know that "Heathers", especially in that demographic, is really popular,” said Emily Cassano, lecturer in theatre, music, and the visual arts at Behrend and the director of the musical this spring.

        The auditions attracted around 25 students, over 17 of which were casted. According to Cassano, this year’s auditions were the biggest turnout she’s received in the five years she’s been working at Behrend.

This year, the show will star Emily Koebly as Veronica Sawyer, Dante Colorito as JD Dean, Ashley Meyer as Heather Chandler, Emily Eiss as Heather McNamara, Katie Heeter as Heather Duke, Krissy Esch as Martha Dunstock, Jaret Kelly as Ram Sweeney, and Austin Johnson as Kurt Kelly.

“I hope [the cast members] get to challenge themselves a little bit or feel challenged by the material and what they’re being asked to do. As an actor, it’s always rewarding when that happens… I want them to have fun and enjoy each other,” said Cassano.

Each year, Cassano directly involves her students in the decision process for the following year’s productions. One of her students actually provided her the idea for "Heathers" this spring. “It’s usually a student who gives me the suggestions,” said Cassano.

For second semester creative writing major Aria Meixel, who was cast as the new wave girl, "Heathers" will be the fifth musical she has participated in. “I have been in all the musicals in my high school, and I really like "Heathers", the show itself… I was in the play [Significant Other] last semester and it was really fun, and I wanted to work with Emily again,” said Meixel.

To prepare for her audition, Meixel had the opportunity to work with Behrend’s own Dr. Gabrielle Dietrich, the director of choral ensembles, music, theatre, and visual arts, who helped her prepare and practice a piece for the audition. Meixel chose the song Taylor the Latte Boy, a song outside of the realm of Broadway music but sufficient for the audition.

Having performed in several productions in her high school years, Meixel already knew what to expect for the audition but was nervous nonetheless for the singing audition. “You’re going to be nervous getting up to sing in front of people no matter what, but everyone was always super supportive of whoever was up there singing after they were done. They cheered a lot after everyone finished singing,” said Meixel.

In terms of the audition process, Meixel was satisfied with the requirements, but would have liked to see more reading material and scenes that gave the participants more lines with each other.

While Cassano hopes participants enjoy the entire performance, she is adamant about the importance of the last 20 minutes of the musical, the part of the show where Cassano believes the storyline reveals the heart of the characters. “I hope more than anything that the audience leaves remembering that part of it, remembering how we don’t encourage any of these acts that are happening within the show, but really making a statement about bullying and inclusion and being yourself,” said Cassano.

"Heathers" will premiere on Thursday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m. and shows will be performed the following Friday and Saturday nights at the same time. There will be 7:30 p.m. shows the following weekend, April 11-13, as well. Tickets will go on sale Monday, March 18 at the Reed Union Building (RUB) desk and will be $5 for students and Behrend faculty and staff and $7 for the general public. To learn more, those interested are invited to visit facebook.com/psbtheatre.

“We’re all just working toward a common goal, which is a good show,” said Meixel. “I just think we’re all going to work really well together. We’ve only had a few practices together with all of us, but they’ve been really fun so far.”