The start of a new experience

Maddie Almodovar

More stories from Maddie Almodovar

Barbie and you
May 24, 2023

The Sweetwater Union High School District (SUSHD) musical uses elaborate sets to depict the setting of Beauty and the Beast. The set shown is part of the Belle’s village.

Though I was in my costume and sweating uncomfortably under the spotlights of the stage, I had the biggest smile on my face. The rhythmic footsteps of my dancing mirrored my hammering heartbeat. Over the summer before my senior year, I spent three weeks practicing for my part in the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) summer musical—Beauty and the Beast. The summer musical will take place between July 27 and July 30. 

The SUHSD summer musical occurs every year, open for students from schools across the district. Students are invited to audition to be part of the acting cast, part of the technical crew or orchestra. Intrigued by the thought of performing with a high-production cast and team, I auditioned to be Mrs. Potts, a pot under the curse of the Enchanted Castle. Almost 200 students had auditioned and about 50 had made it in, including myself. 

My first day as a cast member started on June 27th, with rehearsals from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Sundays. Although I did not get the role I auditioned for, I was extremely privileged to be part of the ensemble as a villager in the story. Excitement bubbled in my chest as the days grew closer to rehearsals at San Ysidro High (SYH).

When I arrived at rehearsals, I marched into SYH determined to make new friends in the sea of new faces. I was elated to see a fellow former Baron and underclassmen from Bonita Vista High! I was equally excited to meet students from other schools, ranging from Chula Vista High, Eastlake High and Bonita Vista Middle. 

However, as the first week of rehearsals progressed, I observed students forming themselves into friend groups, making me feel lonely and isolated. I became discouraged from socializing and did not want to try my hand at getting to know others. At one point, I even considered dropping out of the musical altogether.

I considered my options; drop out of the musical and miss out on putting together a production that people would watch or stay and find out what it means to be part of something. I talked to a friend who also felt distant from the community. He helped me realize that I wasn’t alone and that there are benefits to being in the play. When I weighed my options, I decided to stick with the play.

I’ve found that teenagers often lack a sense of identity and as a result, they have difficulties finding their place in the world. Similarly, I wanted to find a place that allowed me to feel like I belonged in the cast. Seeing the students around me flock together in groups made me feel like the odd ball out. But since I stuck with the play, I was reminded why I auditioned in the first place: I craved new experiences and a production where people would watch me perform on stage. 

A more positive mindset allowed me to connect with the cast, technicians and the orchestra as well. With tech week on July 25, where full lights, sound, sets, and costumes are used during run-throughs, anticipation for opening night is rising. 

Despite our first show nearing on July 27, my feelings of loneliness and isolation have not changed. However, as rehearsals end later than usual, I come home exhausted yet prideful. My most recent experiences from the past week of rehearsal consisted of pride in not only the cast and the orchestra, but also myself. All of us could finally see the show coming together—the product we have all been waiting for. My shared excitement of our first performance has brought me closer to some of the cast. 

From the beginning of rehearsals, we learned to vocally harmonize, memorize choreography and develop our stage presence. Even as the musical started to come together, our director made notes for us to improve upon. Our work would not be over until we bowed on the stage during our closing night.

I can hardly wait for the applause after our first show and more expectedly, the cheers from everyone who has participated in creating the show. We all want one thing in common—to put on a show that people can watch and enjoy.

Participating in the SUHSD summer musical is a unique experience that I will miss after the production comes to an end. I hope to keep in touch with the people I met, even if we had not interacted much during the production process. Despite feeling out of place in the beginning, I am glad I decided to stick with the musical for an experience that I will never exchange for another.