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‘Hairspray’ Casting Spurs Journalistic Event

A student’s article about the school musical turned into a panel interview during Upper School journalism class. After learning that Upper School theater teacher Marc Raia was looking for more African-American students to perform in the Civil Rights-depictive musical “Hairspray,” senior Olivia Bell reached out to Raia for an interview. Raia liked the idea of sharing the story of the casting process for the musical. He suggested he answer Bell’s questions in person, along with Seven Hills student government president Rosalind Roland and Courtney Hammond, co-choreographers for “Hairspray.” Journalism teacher Karla Dejean then asked Bell if she would be interested in hosting a panel interview during journalism class. During the interview, Bell learned that Raia brought “Hairspray” to Seven Hills because he was inspired by our Seven Values. Roland and Hammond said they were heartened that more African-American students decided to take roles to perform in the musical. They stressed that the students’ involvement was not something they should have felt compelled to do based on their racial background and ethnicities. “Olivia’s interview quickly became a journalistic endeavor that also served as a cultural competency experience for everyone in the room,” said Dejean. “We learned the original intentions of director John Waters, who wrote and directed the 1988 film the musical is based on; the huge undertaking involved in putting together a diversely casted play in a more homogenous school population; and got closer to understanding the nuances involved in just one dynamic aspect of being an African-American student at Seven Hills.”