As the 25th anniversary of the death of musical icon Kurt Cobain nears, the importance of mental health is being resurrected.
Kalamalka Secondary School’s “MusiKal” theatre and stagecraft students are bringing back Broken: An Alternative Musical at the Apple Box Theatre Dec. 4-14.
“This is our second time doing this show – it was written and had its world premiere at Kal in 2012 – and we exhumed it to help commemorate the 25th anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain as well as to weave into our more recent school goals around mental wellness, communication and relationships,” said Shon Thomas, Kal’s drama teacher, who wrote the production with Jackie Fa from Norway, Matt Clark and Tim Mack.
Set in Elma, Wash., south of Seattle and on the way to Cobain’s home in Aberdeen, Broken follows the ups and downs of a group of teens after Nirvana’s frontman killed himself.
“He knew the area well and they knew him,” said Thomas. “Pretty much everyone in western Washington claimed Nirvana as their own.
“This is the summer after the fallout of your local hero. We wanted to focus on the kids that felt his music and related to it.”
The importance of music and how large of a role it once played in people’s lives is front and centre.
“We’re trying to transport kids back to that time where music was at the centre of teenager’s lives,” said Thomas, who grew up in bands and was either trying to be the concert or be at a concert. But something has shifted since then, he admits.
“Now, it’s been heftily replaced by social media.”
The almost entirely original music is all inspired by the rock movement of the early 1990s – mostly anchored in Seattle, but also with a tip of the hat to the alternative and hip hop scenes that were exploding. All Apologies and one Meat Puppet song are also included. Musical director Dustin Schmauder has re-arranged a number of the songs this time around and adjusted them.
“The longest tops out at just under 10 minutes and the shortest around 25-30 seconds,” said Thomas, adding that there are 31 students on stage (closer to 60 including stagecraft) who have been studying the script since September and rehearsing since October.
As for the generation who are playing the part, Nirvana is a bit foreign but the message resonates.
“It’s a different concept for a musical than the traditional ones. Who writes musicals about the ’90s grunge era?” said Grade 12, second-year theatre student Sara Goddu. But she admits, it’s intriguing. “It has more grit to it than a traditional musical.”
Dealing with a range of emotions and topics that teenagers face (anxiety, depression, relationships, teen pregnancy, for example), the story line resonates.
“I can think of close people in my life that have had those issues, including me,” said Eve Cleland, a Grade 10 student in her first year with the drama class.
While they maintain that social media has created greater opportunities for today’s youth, the two agree that it does have its faults in youth’s lives.
“Friendships are harder to maintain because of distance,” said Cleland.
“A lot of disconnect,” adds Goddu.
Complete with costumes authentic to the period (Thomas looked through his yearbook from 1993 to recall), Broken is open to the public nightly at 7 p.m. Dec. 4-7 and Dec. 11-14, plus a 2 p.m. matine Dec. 8. Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for adults. For more information and reservations email email@example.com