Hairspray

Hairspray

Lauren Rubenstein

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s a historic show, but as pointed out by the performers and the co-directors, these are historic times that are not too far removed. Kinkaid has partnered with another school, George Washington Carver High School, to put on a production of the musical “Hairspray.” As co-director Mr. Justin Doran put it, “This is the first time in the city of Houston that anything has been done of this scale, with this many students, with two radically different schools.”

“Hairspray” is the story of Tracy Turnblad’s quest for stardom (played by junior Brock Looser) on a local TV dance program. Once she lands a spot on the show, she begins scheming to integrate the predominantly white show.

For Mr. Doran and his Carver co-director, Ms. Roshunda Jones, the story of “Hairspray” is one that provides sharp social commentary on American society. The recent events in Ferguson, Baltimore, and the protests across college campuses this fall incentivized Mr. Doran and Ms. Jones to engage their student artists “in a way that they would start thinking about how to approach these issues.”

The idea for “Hairspray” came a year ago, when Mr. Doran began wondering what musical he might direct this year. “I was walking through the library, and there was a cover of Time magazine that had a photo of a young man being chased down the street in the Baltimore riots, and on the cover it said, ‘America, 1968’—but the 1968 was crossed out and 2015 written in,” said Mr. Doran. He asked himself, “Is there a show out there that could highlight what’s going on in the world today?”

The following weekend at the Tommy Tune Awards, he sought out Ms. Jones (Carver received acting nominations for their production of “Ghost”). She was very open to a collaboration between the schools, and from that moment, they began the long process of gaining approval for the project. They spoke to the Tommy Tune Awards organization and two school administrations because the joint-show is “very different and very worthwhile.”

“As an artist, you never wanna be stagnant. So, the more you’re challenged in your own process, the better you get. It just takes a little bravery and a little faith to continue to test yourself,” Mr. Doran said. “And doing things differently is not necessarily good or bad, but it does sharpen you.”

“Hairspray” is a massive production that involves juggling many parts: It features 100 students from Kinkaid and 75 from Carver (last year’s “A Chorus Line” had 86 students)—just memorizing everyone’s names at the beginning was an immense experience. When students commute to Carver or to Kinkaid, they spend about 30 to 45 minutes just in transit. But none of the performers and stage/tech students regret their involvement.

Bishop Pearsall (Carver ‘18), who plays Thad in the musical, said, “That’s the beauty of ‘Hairspray.’ It’s so glitz and glam, and it’s so fun to watch, but there’s so much underlying meaning to where you realize there are lines in the show that are just like, ‘Wow.’ That resonates with you. And the purpose of that is to show you, we’ve made some progress, but we still have a long ways to go as human beings.”

“I don’t want [people] to see Carver and Kinkaid doing ‘Hairspray,’ I want them to see society on stage. I want them to see past tense representing present tense, trying to change the future. If we don’t change the way we think, we’re not going to evolve,” Pearsall added.

The “Carkaid” performances of “Hairspray” tell a story: they exhibit the hardships, relationships, and a shared love of art and music. The show was first performed at Carver the weekend of Jan. 15. It came to Kinkaid this Thursday for Students’ Night. Three more performances took place in the Katz Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. on Feb. 26-27, and at 2 p.m. on Feb. 28.