Student playwrights see their musical debut on UCLA stage

June 29, 2020
The next Lin-Manuel Miranda has to come from somewhere — and it just could be Legacy Visual and Performing Arts High School in southeast Los Angeles. That’s where two 10th-grade students were finalists in a prestigious playwriting competition put on by the Foundation for New American Musicals. Students Clarissa Gaeta and Nathalie Moreno competed as finalists in the 2019 ShowSearch competition, which invites high school and college age playwrights to submit a 10-minute video of a musical they are developing. Six finalists are then selected and paired with a top musical theatre professional for a month-long intensive mentorship. The students were one of two finalist teams from the Los Angeles Unified School District and the only finalists who were taking a musical theater writing class in a public school — Clarissa and Nathalie study how to write music, lyrics, and book/script/narrative in a class taught by Theatre Arts Chair Stacie Craig. They each won a $500 scholarship courtesy of Wells Fargo Capital Finance for being a finalist in the competition. Clarissa and Nathalie were two of the only three students of color/Latinx that were finalists. After being notified their all-original musical, “The Hardest Goodbye,” was a finalist, the two young playwrights refined their work with a mentor assigned by the Foundation, professional musical theatre writer Brett Ryback. The finished 10-minute musical then received a staged reading, which was cast, produced and directed by top Los Angeles musical theatre professionals. Legacy VAPA Principal Edward Trimis said he was struck by how professional the students were while working with the director, musical director, stage manager, and their actors. “We are giving our students a true taste of what it is like in the profession. They are not only writing original musicals, they are writing on a deadline, writing for a producer and director, and seeing their work literally come alive in front of their eyes,” he said. “Nathalie and Clarissa’s success demonstrates that through hard work, staying true to yourself and your art, and perseverance, you really can do anything.” After a week of rehearsals, “The Hardest Goodbye” debuted at the ShowSearch finals event, held in the Little Theatre at UCLA on Oct. 12, 2019. The show centers on Marco and Bernard, childhood “besties” from way back whose friendship takes an unexpected turn when Bernard changes his college plans and Marco makes a startling confession. Attendance at the culminating ShowSearch event has increased every year. In 2017 the high school winners were Jessica Nava and Maria Hernandez, participants in the Pathway program at VAPA Legacy High School, with their show “Grandma’s Keeper.” Since then, the playwrights have expanded it into a full-length musical. Legacy VAPA is a 100 percent Title 1 school in the City of South Gate.
Legacy VAPA Principal Edward Trimis with students Clarissa Gaeta and Nathalie Moreno, who were finalists in the 2019 ShowSearch competition.
ShowSearch finalists are paired with professional theater mentors
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