Most of the students who took part in the dramatic element of this year’s Arts Camp at Bayonne High School didn’t realize they would be getting a life lesson while learning their craft, but they did. It was a lesson that was particularly relevant to them, since their musical dealt with issues most of them faced at this very moment.
The play, called “13 the Musical,” is about what it means to step over the threshold between being a child and suddenly being a teenager. The show is about kids who are making that transition in life from childhood into the early teen years in which puberty and the associated social issues rise up, said Tim Craig, director of the camp and the high school’s arts program.
“This show focuses on one 13-year-old boy who moves from New York to a small western community, and trying to make new friends and the problems associated with it.”
While the musical is also a comedy, it deals with issues that members of the cast that are in that age range face as well, so they deal with these issues not only as characters in the play but also as boys and girls who are transitioning into teenagers.
The character “Evan Goldman,” played by Andy Winters, is having his bar mitzvah, a Jewish rite-of-passage ceremony denoting a boy’s transition from childhood into adulthood. He’s not sure that he can get enough people to attend or that his parents, who are in the midst of a divorce, can get it together to arrange the ceremony.
“Evan is a new kid in Appleton, Indiana,” Winters said. “He’s growing up and he wants to have an awesome party, but it’s kind of challenging for him because he doesn’t know anybody.”
In some ways, this is a foreshadowing of Winters’ real life when he travels out of town to a new school where he will have to make new friends as well. Winters graduated from Nicholas Oresko School in June and is planning to attend the Hudson County Schools of Technology in North Bergen in the fall.
A challenge for Winters is understanding a particular aspect of Evans’ character.
“His parents are splitting up and I really don’t know how that feels,” he said. “And he has so many mixed emotions going around in his mind.”
But even though he hasn’t experienced all that turmoil in his own life, Winters said his training allowed him to prepare for the role. And he said being the focus of the show is “really exciting.”
Winters said he intends to major in musical theater, which is one reason he came to the camp this year.
A musical with many messages
With a cast of 41 kids between the ages of 8 and 16, the play delves into humor, pathos, and song with some of the issues most central to kids, such as their first kiss, bullying, social outcast, true love or not-so-true love, dating and others.
Samantha Kobryn, who graduated All Saints Academy in June and will be attending Bayonne High School in September, plays “Kendra,” the most popular girl in school.
“She’s sweet. All the guys like her,” she said.
“Sometimes it was hard to figure out if I should be serious or bubbly because she had both types of characteristics,” she said.
And what is she in real life?
“I think I’m pretty bubbly,” she said with a laugh. But she also found the serious parts from out of her own life.
“Some of those situations I’ve been in, because it’s about growing up, so I can take it into my life and put it into the show.”
While her character doesn’t have to deal with some of the more serious issues that the show raises about kids growing up, Kobryn admitted that there were some mature issues.
Dominic Crisonino, a graduate of Horace Mann, has one of the most challenging roles in the play, as the handicapped “Archie.”
“I am aware that I am on crutches,” he said. “It doesn’t really affect me when people bully me. I’m dying in this play. So I’m very sarcastic with the way people handle me. I can take it. Instead of going home to cry about it, I take it.”
Where does he get the inspiration for the part?
“I’ve seen people who have been bullied,” he said. “It’s really not that easy. So I’m trying to bring sadness to the part because he is crippled and he has been made fun of.”
He said it was hard using the crutches in the play.
“I’m not crippled. So playing a cripple is pretty hard. There is a scene in the show where I lean in to kiss Kendra and wind up kissing Brett.”
“We know how all this is going. This is really a show about the age group the cast is in.” – Danielle Baran
Danielle Baran, also a graduate of Oresko, plays “Christie.”
“She sort of hangs out with the guys more often than normal cheerleaders and others, so she is technically like a tomboy, and she is a goofball and funny and she’s fun to be with. Her best friend is Simon and he’s really shy.”
She said she puts a lot of herself into the role.
“I’m a goofball,” she said. “It’s a fun role to play. It’s really being who I am and brings so much more to the character.”
She said you get to see what the characters go through in the songs.
“We know how all this is going. This is really a show about the age group the cast is in. So it’s easy to understand what this is about. It’s really coming from us, although the crew helps us in so many ways,” she said. “This is a play for teenagers and it’s a really good show.”
She said she wants to study musical theater and dance
Many of the characters are just arriving at that traumatic age of 13 and struggle with including the concept of bullying, which centers on a disabled character who become an outcast.
“It is interesting to see how our students deal with it,” Craig said. “There are good kids, but many have similar experience in their own lives and here they see how it is to deal with someone who is different.”
There is an interesting honesty in hearing the cast talk about their parts, and a kind of understanding they have that adults might miss, which is part of what the play conveys to the audience when it is performed.
The drama element includes work on dance, vocals and acting skills, which all contribute to the performance.
In order to drum up attention for the event, students will be doing a video advertisement and will make use of social media and Twitter.
“We also hope to get people to come by word of mouth,” Craig said.
The play will run about an hour and fifteen minutes. “13 the Musical” will be performed on July 27 and 28 at 7 p.m., and on July 29 at 2 p.m. Tickets for adults are $12; for students, they are $10. They can be purchased online at BHSdramasociety.com or by calling (201) 858-0071.
Other arts at camp this year
The play is one piece of this year’s Bayonne High School Performing Arts Camp, which is made up of three components. The other two are fine arts drawing and paints that will be displayed outside in the lobby; and a musical component in which students perform works, study various aspects of music, create their own compositions, and put on their own performance.
The musical performance will be a free event held at the high school at 2 p.m. on July 30. Running time for this is about 45 minutes. Each student involved will be given a CD of the performance.
Melissa Rodriquez, who will return to Bayonne High School as a junior in the fall, came to the camp as a kind of recap of the lessons she’s learned during the school year, such as music theory and the fundamentals of music, and got a shock when she got involved in electronic garage band music.
“I’d never done it before,” she said. “I understood soundscape, but I was used to music rather than sound. Luckily, this had woodwinds in it,” she said.
Band Director Serge Puchinsky, who heads the musical component of the camp, said Rodriquez had to think beyond her classical training in order to create this kind of music.
“For kids with no classical training, it’s easier, but for someone like Melissa, she had to get around what she learned,” he said. “This was an experience to get her to think outside the box.”