Senior Showcase celebrates certificate program students, reveals future productions

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Provided by the Office of Communications

Austin Killam (12), who pursued the musical theater discipline, holds up a pair of boots in his Senior Showcase performance of “Step One” from the musical “Kinky Boots.” The Senior Showcase was live streamed on May 13.

by Aastha Mangla and Alysa Suleiman

Twenty-two seniors marked the end of their tenure with the upper school conservatory’s certificate program during Senior Showcase on May 13, a livestreamed event that celebrated their dedication to and love for performing arts. As the first show with an audience this school year, students had the choice to perform either masked or unmasked as well as invite up to three family members to watch in socially distanced cohorts.

“It was kind of like doing two shows at once because we wanted to make sure that everybody got to participate,” Director of Performing Arts Laura Lang-Ree said. “I have to give lots of credit to offset communications, [communications manager Catherine] Snider and [production manager Brian] Larsen because it was quite an undertaking to meet all of the demands of a live performance [along] with including the beautiful slates that announced the students’ names.”

Out of the six conservatory disciplines, seniors Katerina Fenner, Sophia Horng and Audrey Liu pursued instrumental music; Sophia Fernandez, Kristin Tong, Benjamin Gicqueau and Zoe Kister pursued dance; Meilin Yen, Calais Poirson and Ruya Ozveren pursued vocal music; Maya Franz, Sarah Raymond, Austin Killam, Evan Bourke, Vaishnavi Murari, Shray Alag and Alex Kumar pursued musical theater; Benjamin Soraire, Topaz Gao and Aniket Kriplani pursued theater; and Angela Cai and Geneva Devlin pursued technical theater. 

Throughout the four-year program, students took specific classes and attended workshops, and a jury of teachers in the student’s respective disciplines judged their progress at the end of each school year. By senior year, students were required to have adequate experience in all fields of the conservatory and a heightened knowledge in their selected field. 

A dance discipline senior, Kristin Tong planned her last performance to include her close friends Karina Chen (12) and Eileen Ma (10), who have been a part of her dance journey throughout middle and high school. Her song, “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston, was specifically chosen for the opportunity to choreograph a lyrical routine, a facet of dance that she had not delved into before. 

Though social distancing protocols did not allow for more than three additional guests per certificate student, Kristin enjoyed the livestream format of Senior Showcase that allowed many of her other friends to watch at home.  

“I’m very sad that it’s coming to an end,” Kristin said. “I was very nervous, too, because it’s been a year since I’ve actually performed in front of a live audience. Even though the audience was a little bit quiet, it was refreshing to have an audience to perform in front of one last time before we graduate.” 

Each year, certificate program mentors, upper school production manager Brian Larsen, upper school instrumental music teacher David Hart, upper school vocal teachers Susan Nace and Jennifer Sandusky, Performing Arts Director Laura Lang-Ree, upper school theater teacher Jeffrey Draper and upper school dance teachers Karl Kuehn and Rachelle Haun, work together to produce the Senior Showcase.

“I’ve worked with [my three certificate students] since freshman year, and by their senior year they’ve blossomed and it’s the biggest high five in the world,” Draper said. “It’s a culmination of joy and art and goals and overcoming obstacles. It’s just the best.”

Aside from Senior Showcase, the conservatory also had a packed week with Hammies. A wordplay on “Harker Grammys,” Hammies is an awards show held at the end of each year to congratulate outstanding students in the conservatory, and conservatory mentors dressed as pigs to match the name. 

During the show, next year’s Fall Play and the Spring Musical for the next two years were announced: “Much Ado About Nothing” for the fall play, and “Drowsy Chaperone” and “Spelling Bee” for the 2022 and 2023 spring musicals, respectively. 

“Spelling Bee” will be a Fringe musical, in which every four years the upper school musical cast travels to the annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland to perform the musical. The last musical to be performed there was “Urinetown,” Harker’s 2019 production. 

“I think all of us are just super proud of all of the students for making their artwork during the pandemic and still bringing joy to not only themselves but their community in the whole school,” Lang-Ree said. “There’s a lot of excitement, and we can’t wait for next year. We’re ready.”

Additional reporting by Arushi Saxena and Sally Zhu.