Even before the December 14, 2012, Sandy Hook school tragedy, Lawrence Academy students had decided to explore the human experience of a tragic event by creating an original theatrical production titled Oklahoma! City. Sadly, the recent event brought an even more powerful relevance and impact to the work that the students were doing.
The setting is a high school production of Oklahoma!, being rehearsed in an Oklahoma City high school in April of 1995 in the days before—and after—the Murrah Federal Building is bombed in the single largest act of domestic terrorism this country has known.
The story is about what the students who are rehearsing this show go through as their lives are thrown into tumult when this event happens—how they deal with it as a community, how they are affected by it as a community, how they are affected by it individually, and the choices they make after that.
They are looking at some big questions here, Mr. Sugerman notes: “What does it mean to be safe? What does it mean to be American? When something like this happens, does it change us—or can it change us as a country, as people individually?”
He also makes it understood that the intention is not to answer those questions, but to ask them deeply and leave people thinking—something else that both directors see as a most desirable result.
The actors all play the part of high school students, something that is familiar to them—but they have each created histories and personalities for their characters based on their research, which included generous input from individuals who were actually teenagers in Oklahoma City at the time of the bombing.
An additional feature of the production is original music by talented song writers Haley Gowland ’13 and Salyna Anza ’14. Students will also provide the instrumental accompaniment.
The two individuals behind the making of this production, Theatre Director Joel Sugerman and Dance Director Brian Feigenbaum, are both extremely committed to the process of creating original work with the students and are dedicated to providing opportunities for them to grow as human beings—which they place far above creating professional actors or dancers as the most exciting result of their work.
Oklahoma! City debuted last night and will be performed February 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Richardson-Mees Performing Arts Center on the LA campus.