Southeast Missouri State University student publication

“Heathers: The Musical” explodes at Rust Flexible Theatre

Tuesday, November 5, 2019
Veronica Sawyer (senior April Bassett), left, sings about her love for Jason “J.D.” Dean (senior Tyler Battista), right, as the school watches in shock.
Photo by Jelani Days

Editor’s note: This article contains language and references that may not be suitable for all readers.

What happens when the catty attitude of “the plastics” from "Mean Girls" is crossed with a murder mystery?

“Heathers: The Musical” premiered at the Wendy Kurka Rust Flexible Theatre, more commonly known as the “Flex Theatre,” on Oct. 30.

The Flex Theatre was transformed into the gymnasium at Westerburg High School, where the play is set. Music from the 1980s was played pre-show to set the scene and prepare the audience for a stage full of scrunchies, plaid and big hair.

The story follows former “nobody” Veronica Sawyer’s journey into fame and fallout. The plot thickens when everyone who crosses her is later found dead, starting with Heather Chandler.

The stage was ripe with slow-motion fight scenes, crude humor and the overwhelming attitude of Heather Duke, Heather McNamara and Heather Chandler. The general angst of being 17 is overshadowed by themes of bullying, suicide and murder.

Tense moments of teenage uncertainty are spliced between spells of raucous laughter as the cast deftly maneuvers between scenes of house parties and high school hierarchy.

The process of turning the Flex Theatre into a retro high school was not easy nor quick. Deck Chief Mary Cook described the many tasks required to ensure every person backstage and frontstage is doing their job correctly and efficiently.

“During shows, I bounce around, making sure that everything is going okay,” Cook said. “I have to watch for set pieces that break and jump to get them fixed right away.”

Each student majoring or minoring in the Theatre and Dance programs on the River Campus is required to wear many hats for the productions offered there.

Southeast junior Patti Meadors was assigned to deck crew for “Heathers: The Musical” for a class called Rehearsal and Production. Students in the course are delegated crew positions in construction, scenery, costumes and deck crew.

Meadors said the deck crew members are in charge of creating the magic for the show backstage.

“I'm on headset, so I hear the backstage assistant stage manager, stage managers, the lighting board, the soundboard, all that happening,” Meadors said. “I cue when things happen, like open and close the doors, and scene changes.”

“Heathers: The Musical” has been in the works for around three months, according to junior Henry Leith. Casting for the musical concluded in April of 2019, and rehearsals began three weeks after the Fall 2019 semester started.

Leith played Preppy Stud / Beefy A**hole, which he said was different from the typical personalities brought to life on stage.

“A lot of the characters in the show are written to be two dimensional, which is different than other shows where you have to create a three-dimensional person,” Leith said.

Leith said his experience as a performing arts major at Southeast will give him a leg up in his professional career because he will be a well-rounded candidate.

“We talk all the time in rehearsals about how professional rehearsals go and what our responsibility is as students, as actors and as artists,” Leith said.

Acting major Tyler Battista played J.D., the main antagonist. Battista spoke about the immense workload of producing a play and praised his peers for their hard work and dedication.

The cast created a group chat to keep up with the workload and make sure each performer was confident and in tune with their character. Battista said everyone has everyone’s back for production, something he said is important for a successful show.

The senior said the amount of preparation and practice can be daunting, especially for a lead, but all of that is feasible with peers who are professional and eager to make progress at rehearsals.

“The audience only gets to see a finished product,” Battista said. “They don’t see all of the work, decisions and directions put into a show before the performance.”

“Heathers: The Musical” is based on the cult classic movie written by Daniel Waters. The rock musical will be rolling until Nov. 10 and tickets are available for purchase at https://rivercampus.org/tickets/.

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