PLAYBILLDER Spotlight: “Shrek” is the biggest and most expensive show to date at this Californian high school

Education News

PLAYBILLDER Spotlight: This Californian high school Shrek Is their biggest and most expensive show to date

At West High Performing Arts, teamwork and self-esteem are taught on stage.

Welcome to PLAYBILLDER Spotlight, where Playbill highlights shows and events from educational institutions across the country (that have utilized Playbill's program creation service). By welcoming these PLAYBILLDERs into the spotlight, we hope to give our readers a deeper look into theater programs that foster a love of the performing arts in the next generation.

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This week’s focus is on the West High Performing Arts Center in Torrance, California, and their production of Shrek – The Musical. Based on the Oscar-winning film Shrek – The Musical features songs by Jeanine Tesori and a book by David Lindsay-Abaire. The story of an unlikely hero and a witty donkey and their mission to rescue a spirited princess is irreverent fun for the whole family.

Theater and Artistic Director Christy Orabuena told Playbill why she knows she's reaching students through her teaching and her 14-year plan to expand her school's performing arts program.

West High Performing Arts Center Shrek – The Musical

Tell us a little about yourself. How many years have you been teaching?
Christy Orabuena:
I have been teaching at my high school for 21 years. I studied there as a student and am so proud to be back as a theater teacher.

What moment are you most proud of as an educator?
My proudest moments as an educator are always when I see my students grow and succeed as adults. I love when I see pictures of them hanging out together 10 years later. It shows me that the friendships formed in my program are meant to last a lifetime. I am most proud of the relationships that have formed over the past 21 years. Just last month, a former student sent me a picture of him in his theater sweatshirt to celebrate our premiere. Even though he is now 28 and lives across the country, he took the time to send his best wishes to the kids in the cast. These text messages keep me going as an educator since we are never sure if we will reach the students.

Can you tell us a little about the value you see in a performing arts program in schools?
Performing arts in school are so important in giving children the opportunity to be creative and engage. I love how we teach teamwork, problem solving and self-esteem through performance.

West High Performing Arts Center Shrek – The Musical

What impact does your school's performing arts programs have on your community?
Our community is very supportive of my program. We perform at local elementary schools every year. At our performance, the younger students have the opportunity to take photos with the cast and participate in a question and answer session. This has become a great event because we have learned that for a child, it may be the first or only time they experience live theater.

What shows are your kids obsessed with at the moment?
My kids are obsessed with Little Shop of Horrors, The Wizard, WaitressAnd cabaret. All the latest news.

What dreams do you have for the development of your theater department?
My dream for the next 14 years is to create a visual arts magnet at my school. I would love it if the kids could do core classes in the morning and just do performing arts in the afternoon. That's my dream and I'm going to make it happen.

West High Performing Arts Center Shrek – The Musical

Tell us about the production. Why did you choose this show? How do you choose shows for your students?
I choose shows based on the talent I have that year. I have a lot talented children this year and Shrek provided the number of roles I needed. I also needed a well-known show for our audience. After COVID, I wanted to do five years of big, well-known musicals to get audiences back in their seats.

What did the children like about the show?
The children loved the music and dancing at Duloc. They just love performing. They were most proud of how all the design elements of the show turned out. It was the biggest and most expensive show we have ever done.

What message do you have for your students when they step on stage?
I always tell my children to have fun, enjoy the moment and enjoy it. It will her as soon as we open. They should have confidence in their decisions and enjoy every moment because it will not last forever.

What reaction do you expect from the students when they see their name printed on this theater program for the first time?
I'm sure they will feel great joy and excitement, but it will also be important to them as they have put in so much hard work to make the show great.

West High Performing Arts Center Shrek – The Musical

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