Heathers: Behind the curtain


staff writer

At first, I was anxious to go see this show. I heard rumors that the story had some moments of adult language and adult scenes. The plot was described to be very dark.
But in my heart, I believed that there was truth and a statement to be made with this show — and I did not go home empty.
It was such a sweet story of love, compassion, envy and mercy. “Heathers: the Musical” is an honest view into the teenage mind.
I would go so far as to say it is a case study of humans and how we interact with one another.
Suicide, a topic that is close to my heart, is a central focus of the story. The playwright and director give it the attention it needs, and reveal just how it affects everyone involved.
The actors did a wonderful job making each character unique and memorable. The ensemble had sentimental yet provocative messages to proclaim to the audience.
There were moments of loud laughter and times of somber tears.
It was a musical about life, and I am happy that I could witness it.
After a rehearsal last week, I spoke to the director, Jenna Sulecki, a Gannon alumna, about the musical from the initial stages to opening night.

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Roman: Why this musical? What made you want to do this?
Jenna: Well, I didn’t get to pick the musical myself, but as soon as I heard that they were even considering putting on “Heathers,” I put my name forward because it’s my favorite musical and I desperately wanted to be the one to bring it to life.

R: Is this the first large scale/large cast production you directed at Gannon? How is it similar/different from other times you directed?
J: Yes, but I directed a musical with a cast larger than this while I was in Ireland.
Prior to Ireland, I’d only directed plays, so learning about how a timetable differs when there is music and choreography was new.
“Heathers” is also my first time choreographing anything, and that has been a huge challenge because I definitely don’t consider myself to be a dancer.
But truthfully, I think learning how to come up with and teach dances has helped me become a stronger director in a variety of different aspects.

R: How is it working with such a large cast? Any new challenges you’ve never faced before?
J: The larger the cast, the bigger the challenge.
The number of the cast is the number of roles you need to guide and shape.
There were a lot of new people and seasoned actors as well.
I will say it’s difficult to come back and direct people who were your classmates and were in productions with you.
I find it a challenge to put aside the “friend” hat to make enough room for the “director” hat.

R: What is the truth you see conveyed in this musical?
J: Everyone is a victim. That sounds harsh, but it’s absolutely true.
Even the most, seemingly in control, put-together or “popular” people are victims of something.
At some point in all of our lives, we have inevitably felt inferior, attacked, alone, scared etc.
And in those times, we’ve had to find a way to keep going and make it through.
It might have taken several different attempts and it might have been very hard, but you do it.
In “Heathers,” the characters feel their emotions about their trials and tribulations to the umpteenth degree and react in the most severe of ways, but ultimately, they learn they aren’t feeling these things alone.
I hope people leave the show knowing that they aren’t alone, either.
R: What have you learned from this production as a director, as an actress and a student that stands out?
J: I learn something new every time I direct just from the nature of growing the more I practice something. But “Heathers” has taught me a lot about working on a deadline.
This was a massive show for the five-week period of time we had to rehearse, and I am often a terrible procrastinator, so this show really taught me how to properly prepare for rehearsals and work ahead.

• • •

In part I believe it is because Sulecki takes this story to heart, that the whole production team makes this musical a success.
Together they trust that the story has a message to convey, one of importance, especially to the college student.
“Heathers” teaches us that everyone is suffering and needs help.
We all search for love, but so few find it.
Yet all it takes is for a single seed of truth to be planted, and in time a whole garden of love and peace will grow in its place.
“Heathers” is that seed we so desperately need today.

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