Troupe 750 from South Eugene High School in Eugene, Oregon, will perform A Killer Party (music by Jason Howland, lyrics by Nathan Tysen, book by Kait Kerrigan and Rachel Axler) on the Main Stage at the 2021 International Thespian Festival (ITF). Theirs is one of six shows running during prime time at the festival. Your ITF registration gives you all-access to top-rated shows, workshops, and so much more. (Not registered? There’s still time as of this posting to get registered. Don’t wait!)

We caught up with John Monteverde, troupe and play director. He gave us some insights into their production of A Killer Party.  

A Killer Party Group Shot John Monteverde

Some of the cast members of “A Killer Party.”

Why did you choose A Killer Party?

During the past year, I watched a lot of online Zoom productions in an attempt to figure out a way for my students to have as much of a full performance experience as possible during the pandemic. I found that the online format often negatively affected what would’ve otherwise been a lovely show. Zoom makes it difficult for the actors to connect, it limits movement, and renders the creation of stage pictures all but impossible. Online, more serious works often looked ridiculous. 

Unlike many shows, A Killer Party was written to be performed online. That fact made the show appealing. We weren’t going to have to take a musical written for the stage and try to make it work on Zoom. To some extent, the campier elements of the show made it work better in the online format. 

What challenges did you face directing A Killer Party?

For a physically expressive director like me, it was hard to be in a different room than the performers. I was literally a talking head. Additionally, it wasn’t possible for me to see exactly what the camera people were seeing. I had to trust my camera crew. Eventually we developed a shorthand language for getting the right shots. We discovered that the folks working the cameras (who were the parents and siblings of the cast) had good instincts! 

Editing was also a huge challenge, but we were able to divide the show among a large team of editors, so no one person got overburdened with the task. 

How did the troupe react to being on the Main Stage?

Honestly, most of the troupe didn’t know we’d entered the show for adjudication. We attempted to enter the show at our state festival, but this year the Oregon chapter wasn’t adjudicating full-length shows. At the last minute, we pulled A Killer Party from the festival and sent them a few of our fall radio shows instead. And that was the last our students knew.

I submitted A Killer Party to ITF since I couldn’t submit it at the state level. Then I basically forgot all about it. So, yeah, it was a huge surprise to everyone. I think the kids feel proud. This is the second time in three years our school has made it to the Main Stage. We went in 2019 with Be More Chill, too. 

What big lessons did you learn producing A Killer Party?

I think Oregon has been one of the more stringent states on COVID-19 safety. We just went hybrid late in the spring of 2021. Before that, there was no in-person interaction at all for more than a year. We had to produce our show totally without in-person interaction.

Also, this was my first year at South Eugene as the new drama teacher. I’d never met any of the students in person. I think the kids learned a whole new form of producing entertainment. A Killer Party really is a small independent film more than a traditional stage show. The work we did—from the acting to the editing to the design work (as well as the rehearsal process!)—was more like a film than a piece of live theater. 

What else would you like to share with readers?

I’d like people to look a little closer at new musicals. We were one of the first to produce the show once the rights became available, if not the first. We’re also producing a second new musical this spring. It’s called The Mad Ones and it was also written by Kait Kerrigan, one of the authors of A Killer Party. We reached out to Ms. Kerrigan and she’s been supportive of both productions. It’s a great opportunity for kids to produce a musical by a living, breathing writer! 

Matt Curtis is EdTA’s Content and Marketing Director. He launched his career course in educational theatre when cast as Little Jake in Annie Get Your Gun in the 6th grade and is proud to have charted a path working for theatrical training non-profits in New York City and developing plays and musicals for Broadway’s biggest producers.

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