It has been almost 20 years since the Seattle grunge movement started with bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains screaming about their anger, confusion and solitude.
Although the effects of Kurt Cobain and his team of rage-against-the-machine anti-heroes are still felt today, pop culture has since moved on the way it does.
Now it’s OK to breathe the words “alternative” or “commercial” in the same sentence, unless you are truly “indie.”
An original new play, presented by Kalamalka Secondary School’s musical theatre and stagecraft students, Broken: An Alternative Musical looks into a fictional day for several young people in a small Washington town, where suddenly life imitates art, said Shon Thomas, Kal drama teacher.
“The play explores the complex, and often dysfunctional relationships between young people and their parents, their peers and themselves,” he said. “It is a musical jammed with songs that are raw and powerful, goofy and crazed, insightful and awkward – kind of like teenagers.”
Led by a strong, but small group of experienced seniors in tandem with an energizing and passionate group of newcomers, Broken is demanding of performance and technical aspects alike.
The choreography, instrumentation, costuming, set design, lights and sound have all been built and run by the students.
“We chose this script as a departure from the kid-friendly and breezy musicals of the past four or five years as something young actors could challenge themselves to dig their teeth into,” said Thomas. “We explore mental health, teen sexuality, stereotypes, and relationships without losing a step on being grungy.”
The show also uses live musicians to its advantage, although the challenge of hooking up microphones, guitars, keyboards, drums, speakers and cables can be daunting, it also brings an intimacy, vulnerability and new learning opportunities for the students, said Thomas.
“Another challenge is attempting to depict the apathy and disdain many at the epicenter of the grunge movement felt,” he said.
Besides the music and the feel for the day, the students have had to figure out what disaffected youth choreography looks like.
“We have struggled at times to find accuracy and entertainment – and it has been worth the battle,” said Thomas. “Thanks to the randomized play-lists of MP3 players, the death of albums and the immediacy of YouTube, modern young people are better versed in the canon of popular music than ever before. An entire generation has become fluent in the music of the last 60 or so years in a way only devoted music junkies used to be.”
And that leads to a show where young people etch out their lives at the end of a brief era that was defining and still resonates today.
“I am really proud of the students who continue to accomplish things they really shouldn’t be able to. An original musical? That’s nuts – who would even do that?” said Thomas.
Broken runs nightly at Kalamalka Secondary School’s Apple Box Theatre at 7:30 p.m. starting tonight through Saturday and Dec. 4 to 8 with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Dec. 1. Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for adults, sold at lunch at Kal Secondary, 7900 McClounie Rd., Coldstream. For reservations, email email@example.com.