Chicago: A Musical Vaudeville Takes Stage at Roosevelt

Roosevelt drama students in rehearsal for Chicago: A Musical Vaudeville.

Ah, autumn! The glorious, sweater-weather time of year when spectacular rashes of foliage break out and musicals burst from the grand, historic auditorium at Roosevelt High School.

You can always count on first-rate, splashy productions at Roosevelt during the first weekend in November, courtesy of Lori Glawe (rhymes with rave) and the Roughrider drama department. This year will be no exception. “Chicago: A Musical Vaudeville” takes the stage this week!

Glawe is in her 23rd year at Roosevelt and has been razzle-dazzlin’ ‘em for 16 years as the head of the drama department. Three years ago she was inducted into the Iowa Thespian Educator Hall of Fame in recognition of the starring role she’s played in so many students’ lives during her career.

She picks her shows based on many factors including which ones have school production rights available and how the casting demands match up with her pool of thespians. But always there’s an underlying, educational point to be made to her students that may be lost on their audience. In the case of Chicago Glawe wants them to weigh the influence of the media in the 1920’s against its impact on public opinion in the 21st century.

Chicago: A Musical Vaudeville
November 1, 2, 3, 2012 @ 7:30 P.M.
Roosevelt High School – 4419 Center Street
Tickets will be available 45 minutes before curtain: $8 Adults, $5 K-12 Students

Senior Hannah Moreland is one of the student directors of Chicago and a devoted Glawe protégé. “Our relationships with Glawe (they all call her that) may seem casual but they’re based on mutual respect,” Moreland says. “She gives us lots of responsibility and lets everyone have input; even if you’re a freshman who just got here. We learn so much from her about so many things.” Glawe brings out the best in them and they know it. Mostly, what they learn about is themselves and each other.

Watching rehearsal you can see what Moreland means. When Glawe speaks they listen. She does invite input and delegates a great deal to faculty assistants or student crew chiefs, but it’s clear who’s in charge. No wonder Glawe was nominated for that hall of fame honor by former students.

Roosevelt drama is a family affair for the Glawes. Her own kids have been part of the program (son Chris is involved this year) and her husband Vic, a Vice-Principal at Lincoln High School, is the veteran foreman of the set-building crew. This time of year the family really grows.

Napolean’s observation that “an army moves on its stomach” applies just as well to teenage theatrical companies. In between takes on a big ensemble song and dance number, while Glawe takes one of the leads aside for some one-on-one tweaking, everyone else descends on tables full of snacks. As Opening Night nears the schedule gets steadily more grueling and it takes lots of juice boxes and granola bars to keep cast and crew fueled. Homework gets done in auditorium seats during sometimes long waits for a cue. Volunteers prepare and cater meals for the whole entourage.

Parents who listen to their kids mumble across the dinner table and watch them stumble through the clutter in their bedrooms are regularly amazed to see them on stage as costumed cogs in the well-oiled and choreographed machine that somehow assembles between auditions in early September and Opening Night. Not to mention the ones whose kids staff the unseen crews that do everything from shining spotlights on their peers to stitching up their wardrobes. As any theater-goer knows, the final product on the stage is barely the tip of a show’s iceberg.

Upperclassmen eventually become crew heads after first serving as apprentices. Even cast members serve on various production crews in addition to their onstage roles. The mentor/apprentice system culminates with the tradition of Senior Circle prior to the last performance of a show. Each senior takes their long-awaited turn to speak to the rest of the troupe.

“It’s the time for passing the torch; for passing the wisdom,” Moreland says. And it’s emotional. She’s been thinking a lot about what she’ll say when her turn finally comes. “Oh yeah, I’m one of the dorks who went home from my first Senior Circle in 9th grade and immediately started thinking about what I’d say when I got to be a senior. And now it’s almost here.”

Whatever she’s got scripted and no matter how well she’s learned her lines, there’s bound to be some improv when the time comes. And the freshman dorks will love it.

Photos of Roosevelt Drama Students Rehearsing Chicago

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