Guest post contributed by Bethany Higa (’18)
Every year, ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY’s (IPA) Drama Department produces a spring musical. The cast and crew, made up of secondary students, put in numerous hours of dedication and hard work to make the production the best it can be. Middle and high school students spend many hours together bonding over this common goal. To the students, it is more than just a play, it is a worthwhile experience where they grow into a family and build a lasting community.
For the 2018 spring musical Brandi Dul, Head of the Theater Arts Department, decided to produce Mulan Jr., a spinoff of the Disney classic Mulan.
“I’ve been wanting to do Mulan Jr. for a while and I was just [kind of] waiting for the right year and this year we had a lot of strong female voices and I just thought that this was the year,” said Dul.
Dul became part of the IPA community during the 2011-12 school year as a history teacher. While in the history department, she began helping the theater staff by teaching a semester-long drama class and by helping direct their musicals.
A year later, Dul officially became part of the theater department and added the fall production to the 9th-12th grade curriculum. Dul also added the 9th-12th grade showcase, which are mini plays that are rehearsed for a month and produced by the students for their families. Finally, she founded the International Thespian Society at IPA in 2014, which currently has around thirty members.
The drama productions become a large part of the cast and crew’s lives. Some have participated since they were younger or followed in the footsteps of those before them. Kylee Norton, the co-assistant director of Mulan Jr., decided to take after her sister and join the production crew.
“My sister was a big part of these productions. She was looked up to from everyone. I thought that was so cool and everyone knew me as her younger sister…She was tech crew, stage manager then she was [the] assistant director [in] her junior [and] senior year, so I just wanted to follow in her footsteps,” said Norton.
These productions take 10-20 hours a week out of the student’s life including after-school and weekend hours. The play is another extracurricular activity on top of their schoolwork and other club involvements. Kailur Sureth who is the lead male role in the play, Captain Lee Shang, decided to drop karate to focus on the play.
“I put in as much time as I can and as much as I can spare,” said Sureth, who is dedicated to learning his role and participating as a cast member.
Dul wants her students to learn valuable lessons by participating in play productions. She hopes they find a home in the theater department as well as gain skills in articulation, collaboration, and communication.
Hannah Button, the co-assistant director of Mulan Jr., has been participating in productions since she joined the IPA community three years ago. She has been growing and continuing to develop her skills over the years from the impact she has seen and felt from Dul.
“I think it’s a developing more than it is learning [experience] especially when you’ve been in theater for a while and its [ ] developing a further understanding of how to interact with people,” said Button.
The students feel Dul’s impact every year. The cast and crew this year have bonded and connected with each other. This unique experience has created a family between the students and Dul.
“It’s just interesting how in [the] weeks leading up to [the show] how you get tired of rehearsal time and then now everybody just really misses it–misses the community, misses spending time together and I’ve had a lot of students just come by saying we miss rehearsal. [Before they] need[ed] something to get out of it and now they miss it,” said Dul.