For many students at Hoboken High School, getting involved with the school’s renowned theater program is an opportunity to break free of the drama and angst of being a teenager.
“I’m a newbie to theater, but I feel like I can really be myself here,” said sophomore Jordan Yurnet last week, as he prepared for the lead role in the school’s upcoming production of “Footloose.”
Yurnet will play Ren McCormack, who was portrayed by Kevin Bacon in the 1984 movie musical of the same name. The film has since spawned a Broadway version.
“I got to meet a bunch of new people,” Yurnet said. “It’s amazing. It’s an escape for me.”
Danielle Miller, in her first year as theater director at the school, selected the popular show as her second production of the school year. The students already performed a smaller show, “Voices from High School,” this past fall.
She is assisted by Kristen Dziuba, musical director.
In “Footloose,” a teenager from a small town attempts to take on a recent ban on dancing. The movie launched hits such as “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” “Holding out for a Hero,” and the title song.
“At the end of the day, when I’m tired, I can take on another persona,” said senior Gabrielle Frederick, who plays Ariel, a supporting character. “It’s really comfortable; the stage is like my home.”
“We get the chance to express ourselves through someone else,” said senior Alyssa Velez, who plays “Vi” in the production. “You can take all your emotions out and put it into someone’s character.”
“It’s an outlet for me,” said junior Ariel Cruz, a singer and stage manager. “I’m a theater junkie.”
Miller stated that her current group stands out due to their motivation and drive to put on a good show. In fact, one of the performances will be judged for a “Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award,” which Miller refers to as the “[New Jersey’s] High School version of the Tony Awards.”
“Some of the [students] don’t play sports, and it’s a way for them to compete against other schools,” said Miller. “They get really excited about it.”
The students recently won five awards for STANJ, a theater competition that took place at Rutgers University.
“They put 110 percent into all their activities,” Miller said. “They don’t care if they’re here until six, seven, or eight o’clock at night five nights a week. They eat, sleep and breathe drama.”
“It’s really comfortable. The stage is like my home.” – Gabrielle Frederick
Miller said that a total of 35 students are involved in the production, compared to the fall play, which featured only 16.
“We’re hoping this show brings in more of an audience because it’s a musical,” said Miller.
According to students, “Footloose” is about overcoming obstacles in order to earn the opportunity to truly express yourself.
“It’s about being yourself and it’s about how one person can really make a difference,” said Cruz.
“I picked the show because I wanted to showcase the students in a different light,” said Miller.
Miller’s philosophy is to allow the students to earn hands-on experience in the production of a play. In fact, Miller gave two students, Cruz and sophomore Alex Yoon-Hendricks, to chance to choreograph a piece.
“It’s a great opportunity [for them] as I help them through the process,” said Miller. “It’s a different way to learn.”
“It’s an upbeat and fun [show],” said Yoon-Hendricks.
“It’s a big part for me,” said Christopher Velez, a junior who plays Reverend Shaw Moore. “I love performing,”
“We’re excited about the show and having the public come behind us and see the hard work and dedication that the students put forth,” said Miller.
The students will put on four performances at the school auditorium: Friday, Apr. 13 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Apr. 14 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Apr. 15 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $3 for seniors, $5 for students, and $7 general admission.
For more information contact Miller at (201) 356-3700 x7210 or visit hoboken.k12.nj.us.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.