An interview with Henry Fonte, Chair of the University of Miami’s Department of Theatre Arts, about their upcoming production of Girls vs Boys, written by Nathan Allen, Chris Mathews, Jake Minton & Kevin O’Donnell, this November 1-11.
Girls vs Boys explores the complicated lives of modern high schoolers as they manage their way through the funny, violent and emotionally turbulent period of adolescence. The story focuses on Casey, a young man who distances himself from not only his fellow classmates but also his sister, Sam, a freshman at his high school. Casey and Sam share a dark past that pulls them together while still keeping them at arm’s length.
How did you find the show?
This season we decided to look for a new contemporary musical that could be developed by the University and The Adrienne Arsht Center. We were on our way to producing something else when the negotiations collapsed. Scott Shiller, our co-producer at The Arsht, who already had a very strong relationship with The House Theatre of Chicago, had seen the original workshop of Girls vs Boys by our good friends at Northwestern University’s American Musical Theatre Project, and suggested we pursue it. Girls vs Boys made sense on many creative levels and also has the potential to attract young, diverse, multi-cultural ticket buyers.
What drew you to the show and how does it fit with the goals of your program?
Girls vs Boysfocuses an unblinking eye on the pent up rage, sexuality, fear and humor that all young people experience. Its themes are universal and, still today, swept under the carpet as we adults try to fight these feelings through medicating kids into NOT feeling, or at least not displaying or “acting out” on those feelings. The most obvious fit is the fact that the cast is exclusively young. There are no adult characters. It also fits with our mission, which in part is to develop new, edgy and exciting work for the American Theatre. This creative collaboration with one of the premier performing arts centers in the southern United States, which also happens to be in our own backyard, offers students a paid, real-world working experience on a world-class stage and ensures that they will have a competitive edge upon graduation.
How will the show be developed while at U of Miami?
We will first do a two-week workshop with the full cast, our creative team and the writing team from The House Theatre. This workshop will concern itself with the story, and how the story is presently served by the book, songs and the current structure. Nothing will be off the table. After that, we will begin a four-week rehearsal towards the production. The show will be co-produced by us and The Arsht, where it will play, in its beautiful, state-of-the-art Carnival Studio Theater.
In addition to featuring students-as-professionals on stage, the production also provides students majoring in technical theatre and design to work side-by-side with the Arsht Center’s production team–helping to create professional sets, costumes and lighting design; assisting stage managers and other key production positions.
What is the thing you are most excited to see when the show gets in front of an audience?
Like all great art, Girls vs Boys has the potential to be highly polarizing. The subscription audiences at both The Arsht and UM’s Ring Theatre, plus our students and the single ticket buyers will form a wildly diverse audience demographic. We look forward to seeing how different age groups react and empathize with the action unfolding before them. While we hope to please as many of these constituencies as possible, we also hope the show will retain some of its raw energy, force and the dangerous electric current that runs through the material. Also, the rock score is pretty exciting.
Why should your fellow members swing by Miami to catch the show?
If we do our job, Girls vs Boyswill become, or be on its way to becoming, a very hot and exciting new property. We can’t have too many of those. It’s new theatre. It’s our job as theatre artists to support and encourage these new voices in as many stages of development as possible. And it’s Miami in November…What’s not to like?
For more information about Girls vs Boys, please click here.