Hillcrest High’s award-winning theater department already has a reputation for producing excellent shows. Add in the magic of Marvel, and the result is bound to be spectacular.
This fall, Hillcrest is one of a handful of schools chosen to pilot two new Marvel one-act plays that tackle contemporary issues from the Marvel Universe. The plays will debut Oct. 24-26.
“Normally we don’t do a show in October, but if Marvel calls you don’t say no,” director Josh Long said about the unusual timing of the production. The 34 students in the pilot plays, “Peter Parker and the Kid Who Flew” by Nanako Winkler and “Mirror of Most Value” by Masi Asare are also performing in Hillcrest’s November production of “42nd Street.” The students are rehearsing all three plays at the same time.
Long first reached out to Disney Theatrical to see if the school could participate in the pilot program three years ago. When he received the email in April that they were selected to perform two 50-minute, one-act plays with characters from the Marvel Universe, he was stunned. The plays have some logistical challenges, like making Spider-Man fly without actually using a harness and wire, but Long is up for the challenge.
“We are definitely doing more than they expected us to be doing,” Long said. “It’s really important to me because I want to create that relationship with Marvel and hopefully they will use us more.”
Long cast an acrobat to play Peter Parker and multiple people to play Spider-Man, so the character can jump from building to building, and with the use of creative lighting and a moving, custom-built skyline, appear to fly.
The action sequences in the play are secondary to the more mature themes discussed by Parker and his friends in the classroom, Long says. They discover a suicide note in a textbook, and work to discover who needs help. Hillcrest’s Hope Squad will host a discussion at the end of every performance to discuss suicide prevention.
The second play features a Marvel character called Ms. Marvel. She is a Pakistani-American who is obsessed with superheroes, until she develops superpowers of her own that don’t quite work the way she thinks they should. She trips over her superhero, super-stretchy limbs, and faces the mockery of her peers as a result. Ultimately, she learns that we are all superheroes in one way or another.
“Marvel’s project is not, how do we make plays about the Marvel characters, but how do we use Marvel characters to talk about more serious things,” Long said. “Theater is just a tool to begin discussion in communities, and that is what it was invented for. It was a form of civil discussion. Marvel could have done anything, but I’m excited they wanted to do this. I’m glad they chose us to do it because that is something we believe in as well.”
One ticket covers both performances, which will take place Oct. 24-26 at 7 p.m. at the Hillcrest Auditorium. Tickets are now on sale.
All Canyons District traditional high schools are in rehearsal for their fall musical productions. Here’s a list of the shows and their scheduled runs:
- Jordan High: “Guys and Dolls,” Nov. 7-11
- Alta High: “Once Upon a Mattress,” Nov. 19-25
- Corner Canyon High: “Elf. The Musical,” Nov. 14-16 and Nov. 18
- Brighton High: “Catch Me If You Can,” Nov. 8-Nov. 12