Embracing the arts: how Shrek changed the game

By: Nicky Barone

From March 20-23, Shrek the Musical played in JCHS’s Center for Performing Arts. The brainchild of director Jensyn Modero and her husband, musical director David Modero, Shrek was a bold, modern choice for our high school, breaking the recent mold of “classic” musicals from the 1940‘s and 1950‘s. The show has been in the works since November 2013 and the student cast, crew, and pit orchestra has worked tirelessly for months to create an end product to remember. I myself participated in this production in the role of Peter Pan. Since I was around the age of 7, I have been involved in musical theater. Throughout these last ten years, I have appeared in around 20 productions. Never before have I appeared in a musical or play that has received the amount of praise and respect than Shrek at JCHS. On Sunday, March 23, the musical sold out completely, something that is nearly unheard of in regards to an amateur production at a small, suburban high school.

While the shows have been growing in popularity since Modero became director, no production has seen the vast amount of success as Shrek. The entire school was enveloped by “Shrek fever,” including green ogre ears on our school sign, a decked-out plant-less lobby riddled with Shrek memorabilia, and even “No Ogre-night Parking” signs in the parking lot. The amount of support, praise, and general positive energy produced from every walk of life in our school community was a true testament to the hard work everyone put into the production. The Jersey Tomato Press cited the musical as having “Broadway sets, costumes, choreography, and more.” Parents, administrators, and various members of the community have gone as far to say that is was the best show to ever be put on at JCHS. The show sold more tickets than any JCHS show in recent memory. It was an honor and a privilege to appear in such a smashing success, which would not have been possible without the incredibly talented students, parents, faculty members, and the Moderos. The importance and significance of theater in our school, community, and society is palpable.

Growing up in a district that heavily valued athletics, I always felt as if I was wrong or strange for not being inclined to such extracurricular activities. When I discovered my passion for theater, I came alive. Theater is the projection of basic human need onto a stage, a universal pang that any individual can attest to. Theater fosters an environment that encourages self-expression, vulnerability, and individuality, while also embracing the significance of a group. Theater is a vehicle for flexibility and accepting shortcomings. Theater acts as a mirror, imparting words of wisdom or aspects of the human condition that stay in the minds of the audience forever. Theater intertwines perfectly with education, teaching not only the mechanics and science of performing, but encouraging open discussion, free thinking, creativity, and growth, both artistically and emotionally. My cast mates will agree that there may be no single thing in the world more fulfilling than hearing raucous applause after a successful musical number or touching laughter after a perfectly-delivered punchline or even solemn silence after an emotionally enriching monologue. Shrek reinforced the notion in me that the stage is where I belong and that there is no gift that humanity can offer that is greater than art. The JCHS Theater Department has been my home for the past three years and I am overjoyed to see what comes next.

JCHS’s production of Shrek has expanded the role of theater arts in our high school, breaking social barriers and any form of stigma to help entertain and provide an artistic experience for all. My hope is the following: that the school community continues with their valued support and encouragement for theater arts, that parents will continue to support their children in their artistic pursuits and support our community through continual attendance and participation in our shows, and most importantly, that students continue to keep their minds and hearts open to theater in our high school and be mindful of the powerful impact it has on our community. Brendan Cullinane, a senior who played the part of Shrek, eloquently commented: “It was more beautiful seen from the inside than it could be seen from the outside. The hard work, friendships, and love that has come out of this production is unmatched by anything I’ve been in before.”  

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