How a High School Aims to Show Just How Relatable "Heathers: The Musical" Is

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  • Katie Portillo

What’s your damage? For many students it’s the crippling fear of social pressure to succeed and prove themselves at a young age. Through the struggles of weaving through relationships and college applications while simultaneously trying to find who they are in this world, being a teenager can be the most stressful and worrisome time of a person's life. Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe write a beautiful story of the raw reality that is the high school experience in Heathers the Musical: High School Edition.

Heathers the Musical: High School Edition follows the life of brainy and beautiful, Westerberg High student, Veronica Sawyer. Longing for a way to fit in, Veronica persuades the Heathers to let her into the most exclusive group of mean girls in school. Life goes on for Veronica and the Heathers as they torment the lives of everyone at Westerberg High. As Veronica starts to crumble under the peer pressure of the Heathers, a beacon of mystery, Jason “JD” Dean rolls in giving life hope. The juggling act of relationships, friendships, high school, and her moral code starts to cripple Veronica as she tries her best to do what’s right.

Beyond the Page emphasizes the importance of shining a light on youth mental health with this show by having high schoolers bring their personal experiences of growing up into the characters they portray. Natalie Edwards tells us that the show “is very important because it pulls attention to mental health issues in a way few shows do. Offering great commentary on how mental health issues like depression and anxiety can wreak havoc on youth in many different ways.” Natalie Johnson adds that high schoolers play roles very close to their reality, “Playing a character with depression has caused me to look at mental illnesses from a new perspective and find ways to raise awareness to the subject while acting.”

In a world that puts an enormous amount of pressure of the younger generation succeed, it’s very easy to fall into a dark hole of mental illness. Gracie Schaub (Ms. Fleming,) tells us that “there’s an entire song in the show called ‘Shine a Light’, where Ms. Fleming encourages the students to share their dark feelings. Though it is on a heavy subject, it’s one of the most upbeat songs in the show, and I think it shows the importance of having some positivity, even in your darkest moments. Shine some light!” With Heathers being a dark comedy set in the 80’s, it’s hard to see how the show can relate to the modern day. While life as a teenager has changed due to the internet and social media, Maggie Bengston says that “this show reflects the struggles any teen may face in their daily life While it may be over-exaggerated in the show through the songs, those watching will see how big of a problem it is in reality. Being set in the 80s, not much has changed to this day. Awareness of mental health has increased greatly now, but similar situations still take place in the lives of teenagers today.”

Heathers the Musical: High School Edition is West Potomac Theatre’s second show of their 34th season, Art that Matters 3: Blood, Sweat, and Tears. With a history of putting on serious shows like American Idiot and Dogfight, Beyond the Page sees the challenge of putting on a show with such a heavy subject matter as inspiration to succeed. With the leadership of Peelee Clark, the high school theatre company makes it their mission to bring art that matters to the Northern Virginia area, showing how impactful theatre can be.

Following the performances on February 1st and 8th, there will be talkbacks led by mental health professionals covering a variety of topics addressed in the show. Some topics of discussion will include: suicide prevention, youth mental health, and communication strategies.

***This production contains language and mature situations.***

Assigned seating for all shows is $12 (plus service charge) available online up to 2 hours before each performance. Any remaining seats will be available at the door one hour before performances. Tickets are available atwww.westpotomactheatre.org