District 113 will be well represented at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival in
January. Both Deerfield and Highland Park high schools were selected to perform
plays at this year’s event.
“I think that’s amazing,” HPHS Theatre Director Scott Shallenbarger said. This will be the third time Highland Park performs at the festival and it’s Deerfield’s debut.
“It’s great to hit a home run on this first try,” DHS Theatre Director Susan Gorman said about entering a play for the first time and getting picked.
About 50 high schools submitted plays to the festival, which were cut in half by
committee members. Around 4,000 theatre students will flood ISU in January for
three days of performances and workshops.
This year Highland Park students will be performing “On Stars Not Falling” and
Deerfield’s “Black Comedy” will be showcased.
“On Stars Not Falling” was actually written by Shallenbarger and is based around a group of college friends who have dropped out of school and reconvene for a birthday party at an apartment in Chicago. According to Schallenbarger, all of the
characters are outside of the mainstream, including a cutter. There is also a
gay love scene in the play.
“I have had a history here of the board of education and the community supporting really sophisticated work that often comes with mature language...That comes with issues that are sticky and sometimes controversial,” he said. “The play really promotes the idea of the courage to be who you are and to be truthful to your identity and that you will find people that support you.”
This will be Highland Park’s second time performing “On Stars Not Falling” at the festival. Schallenbarger decided to bring the play back after a series of teen suicides across America last year, including a number of gay students who fell victim to bullying.
Meanwhile, Deerfield students will be acting out “Black Comedy,” which is a farce written by Peter Shaffer that takes place in a New York apartment during a power outage. A young sculptor is about to meet the father of his fiancée and showcase his work to a wealthy art collector when the lights go out.
“As the evening progresses, there is mayhem and disaster,” Gorman explained. “Their true personalities come out in the dark.”
Both directors are extremely proud of their students for the hard work they’ve
contributed and thankful to District 113 administration and the Board of
Education for backing their efforts.
Shallenbarger said, he’s most excited “to see the spirits of those kids that see the show” and “see the spirits of my students who will recognize the higher purpose of
Gorman mentioned, she’s thrilled District 113 is bringing a variety of works to the
festival. “They’re so different,” she said.