Local students tell 'real story' in their own musical

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Ann Fiore
Thursday, July 24, 2014

JANESVILLE—Ask a bunch of kids to write a musical, and they'll create something based on their own experiences.

In this case, the experience is that nerve-jangling adventure called an audition.

“The Real Story,” an original musical written by local students, follows a group of six teenagers who are interviewing for acceptance into an elite arts academy. The teens present a polished version of themselves to the school, but their real lives are quite different and are revealed as they get to know one another.

A team of six students began writing the show in June as part of a summer camp class at the Janesville Performing Arts Center.

The finished product will debut Friday and Saturday, July 25-26, on the big stage at JPAC.

The six main roles are filled by those on the creative team: Savanna Glissendorf, 11; Jayna Kendell, 13; Charlie Rashkin, 13; Isabel Muraki, 12; Kristie Violante, 11, and Demitri Xiong, 10.

Besides writing their own roles, team members also devised the plot, penned lyrics, composed music and designed the set with help from coaches, said Mindy Curtis, who led the class.

Other students in JPAC's summer camps were invited to fill the remaining roles. Two older teens, Sarah Gilbertson and Bruno Tort, play the adult parts.

“These kids are focused. They are smart. They are dedicated,” Curtis said. “It's going to be great.”

Isabel Muraki, who plays a teen named Jessica Lewis, knows something about auditioning. She's going into seventh grade at Milton Middle School but has already tried out for several shows at Whitewater's Young Auditorium and in Milton.

She also had to audition for “The Real Story's” creative team.

The worst part, she said, is wondering what everyone thinks of you.

“It's very nerve-racking and scary,” Isabel said.

She based her character, Jessica, on people she knows. Jessica is talkative and happy most of the time, but she's troubled about her past and reluctant to talk about it.

“It was really fun making her and all the trouble she's trying to get through,” Isabel said.

Curtis said “The Real Story” has elements similar to “A Chorus Line” and “Fame,” except that the characters are more quirky than edgy.

One character has a piano-playing pug, she said. Another has run away from a foster home, and a third has parents who are against his auditioning for the arts academy.

The project's biggest challenge was writing music that is singable, Curtis said—that is, “translating what the kids wanted in their head to what is possible.”

Isabel agreed that composing music and lyrics was tricky.

“I didn't write the song” for Jessica, she said, “but an awesome person did.”

Isabel declined to give away the ending or say who makes it into the academy. She summarized the plot this way:

“It's just about a lot of kids who have done something wrong or been through stuff, and they're trying to get into a school. And they're telling their stories to each other, and through that they become friends.”

Where the show will go from here is anyone's guess. Curtis thinks it could have a life outside the class.

 “We have some really talented songwriters in these kids,” she said. “We could continue to develop this.”

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