American Repertory Theater Shows Their First Musical to the Students of Malden High School

On December 12th at 4:30 P.M., students participating in the American Repertory Theater (ART) program gathered at Malden High School to get on the bus to the “Real Women Have Curves” musical. 

Everyone boarded the bus and headed to the theater. During the ride, they felt Christmas cheer singing carols together and bonding with each other with the festive music to accompany them.

Upon arriving, Leah Harris and Vahdat Yeganeh, their advisors at the theater, brought them down to the actors’ practice room. Before starting some pre-show activities, they all sat and ate chipotle burritos together to make sure they were set for the rest of the night. Students most anticipated this part of the program because It allowed them and the advisors there to bond while eating a meal that was a small reflection of the show.

After that, everyone began with an introductory activity for all of the students to learn each other’s names and some of their favorite things. Then they moved on to a table (still image) activity in which students and teachers would tell different stories using only their bodies.

They were given the task of filling out a venn diagram with three circles: one each being of societal expectations, family expectations, and self expectations. After this, they were split into four groups to discuss their diagrams, then into two groups to create their tablos together. While the groups brainstormed, Harris gave them each a line from the show to say in their tablo performance.

Students venn diagram of expectations and notes for their performance. GABRIELA PARINI CORDOVA

The performances portrayed different versions of how they all saw the expectations from the venn diagrams using scale and emotion. Some tablos were scattered and personal, while some were more put together and contained general ideas from all the members. One portrayed the perfect nuclear family while another held a collage of people doing what they expected of themselves.

Sophomore Sabrina Dangervil, whose group’s quote was “the grind never stops,” stated that “we chose to portray that by showing a runner slowly getting more and more tired over time… and we wanted a tall person to stand over me, who was on the floor showing how tired I was, so we chose Zahirr Debel and he would say that quote.”

Junior Neyonca Honore thought that “the tablo activity was really fun—I saw people in the other groups' views on the world and how they interpreted different issues with society, their families, and themselves.” Dangervil agreed, adding that “like Neyonca said, you have to see things from a different point of view…it was just really cool.”
Honore also mentioned how “it was really hard, people were all over the floor and in so many different positions.” She also found how they had to incorporate a quote from the show into their tablos “really interesting.”

Both groups portrayed similar ideas like “perfection” and “the American dream” that have become a standard not everyone can live up to.

Once everyone finished, it was time to watch the play. Students quickly grabbed their tickets and rushed to their seats, filled with anticipation.

“My hopes are definitely up for future shows we attend and the food was amazing,” said Honore. “It wasn’t what I was expecting though, I didn’t realize they would put so much thought into connecting the food and the cultures and also getting us to dive deeper into expectations within our lives.”

As the people filled the room, so did the sounds of Spanish music and mariachi bands. There was a beautiful scene painted as guests came in, and after some time, a man came out to strum a guitar while a painter finished up the mural. 

Soon, act one began and everyone in the room was amazed. The play followed the story of a young woman named Ana Gomez who aspires to go to college but is being stopped by her mother in order to fulfill her role in the family as the only American citizen. It takes place in the 1980s, and throughout the story, Ana’s family and the women in her sister’s business are terrified of being deported from America. 

Ana is the only one who can truly help them out in this situation and handle their other needs like bills, taxes, and other necessities. This created conflict between her mother and her own dreams, and audiences of  the play see how everything played out.

From the first moments to the beginning of intermission, a swirl of emotions filled the room. During this time guests could leave for refreshers as they sold hispanic foods and beverages like conchas, mexican hot chocolate, and paloma. 


The students gushed about how beautiful it all was: junior Addison McWayne, a participating junior, felt like “I was fully immersed in the show, like reality outside of the show didn’t exist. I was with the characters through it all. I cried a lot, but I also laughed a lot.”

“I’ve cried already, it’s so good!” exclaimed senior Emma Spignese-Smolinsky. “I don’t even know I can’t even form it into words, it's just so good. When the actor for the mom came on, me and my friends immediately recognized her and were so shocked to see Justina Machado!” 

McWayne said that “we had no idea what we were coming to see, we knew nothing about the show. This exceeded our expectations 100%. I can not wait for Act Two!” During intermission, guests got up wiping away their tears and were able to buy concessions while the actors prepared for the next act. 

As act two began, the room was thrilled to continue on the story. Many amazing songs and moments were portrayed in this act that brought everyone to tears. The audience saw conflict and love and so many raw moments that everyone was able to connect to in one way or another.

Once the play concluded and the cast came onstage to bow, the crowd erupted in applause that turned into a standing ovation. The show was amazing and brought the entire community of the room to tears. As people left, all you could hear were sniffles and you could see people wiping their tears. It felt like everyone shared one heart, and this play resonated with so many people that it was hard not to get emotional.

“Don’t even get me started!” McWayne said, crying. She gushed about both acts, saying, “I don’t know which was better, they were both so good!...I’m shaking right now because of how amazing it was. I haven’t seen many shows but this is the top of the list!” 

Spignese-Smolinsky echoed this sentiment, adding how “I cried the whole time, I loved the whole thing! I have seen a lot of shows and still, this is the best I’ve ever seen!”

“The way they put this show together, even though they’re not actively talking to the audience, we're going through everything with them. It’s just one of the best pieces of theater I’ve ever seen,” stated McWayne.

Through all the laughs and tears shed by the students and staff in the program this is not the end of their journey with the American Repertory Theatre. On March 6th, 2024, they will be seeing the play Becoming A Man and have many more activities to come.

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