We’re back with part two of our interview with the cast of The Prom! This uproariously funny, flashy new musical is about inspiring people to accept their differences and being the star you were always meant to be.
In part one, the cast chatted about what makes this show a must-see, why it’s so relevant now, and how comedy helps deliver a message. This time, the cast offers some personal insight, including experiences with audience members, what their own prom was like and some advice for high schoolers everywhere,
BI: Prom is a major deal in the United States, but not so much in other countries. What will the appeal be to foreign travelers to see this show?
Isabelle McCalla (Alyssa Greene): The story itself is completely original. The writing is fantastically sharp and thought provoking, the music is beautiful and super fun, and the show is really funny. It’s a story about what happens when two groups of people with different ideologies come together, and how they work through their differences to empathize with the other side.
Michael Potts (Mr. Hawkins): In my opinion, The Prom isn't about a prom. A prom is just the circumstantial event of the show. What The Prom is actually about is inclusion, acceptance, community, courage, empathy, selflessness and love. What traveler, of any stripe, wouldn’t find that appealing?
BI: What experiences have you had with audience members after the show? Are people seeing themselves in it – or seeing a new way of relating to these issues?
Caitlin Kinnunen (Emma): Playing Emma has been an amazing experience and so many people have come up to me saying I’m telling their story. It’s great having people relate to a character so strongly and it’s really incredible for them to be able to see themselves represented on stage.
Courtenay Collins (Mrs. Green): The feedback from The Prom production in Atlanta is consistently positive, elative, often emotional. The most meaningful comments came from a woman I met at an Alliance Guild Meeting where I was speaking. After the meeting, she quietly approached me and told me that she saw The Prom and that she WAS Mrs. Green. She told me that her daughter came out in high school and that she could not/would not accept it. They were estranged for many years while spent years in therapy trying to change her daughter and make her Not Gay. Too many years later she realized she had to change herself. Her daughter is married now and has 2 children. Today, this woman loves her daughter in law and they all came to see The Prom together – children included. I wept.
Josh Lamon (Sheldon Saperstein): My favorite is walking out and having audience members run up and sharing their own stories. About how much they related to this show. Also, some wanted me to show them my dance moves. What can I say?
BI: Do you have any stand-out memories from your own prom?
Angie Schworer (Angie): I went to a lot of proms because I went to an all-girls high school and we would get to go to the all-boys high school proms too! My mother actually made a few of my prom dresses and I was so proud to wear them!!
Potts: I was turned down twice. Undeterred, I rented a tux (tails, of course) and went stag. I had an amazing time.
Lamon: I went to three Proms! Each one was a total disaster. TOTAL. DISASTER. But I also was a theatre nerd, so I wasn’t very popular. Though I was the KING/KWEEEEN of all the Bar and Bat Mitzvahs I went to in middle school.
BI: Was your prom inclusive of the LGBTQ community?
McCalla: We had a few students who knew they were openly gay at that point and it was no big deal! I went to a very small liberal high school, so we didn’t even think much of people’s sexual orientations. We all just wanted to have a good time.
Potts: No way! This was South Carolina in the Bible Belt in 1980. I sure hope it’s more inclusive of the LGBTQ community now.
Collins: My prom was in the 1980’s – our class was made up of a lot of different types of groups. We all danced together because if you could Disco, then you fit in, man! Atlanta in the 1980’s was very gay friendly. We started going dancing at the many gay nightclubs when we were 16. It wasn’t a big deal. We just wanted to have fun.
Lamon: No. We had an underground support group at my high school for faculty and students who were LGBTQ. I was horribly bullied for being gay. I will never forget walking into our meeting spot and seeing all the familiar faces. It was so incredible seeing adults that I looked up to and knowing I wasn’t alone. There were people who ‘get’ it. I am happy to report that the next year began the start of The Gay and Straight Alliance Club which was not underground. I’m sorry that I was already in college when that happened, but it fills my heart knowing these kids won’t have to feel so alone.
BI: A lot of kids in high school are still figuring out who they are and what they want to do in life. What advice do you have for them?
Brooks Ashmanskas (Barry Glickman): Be yourself. Be 100% you. Being totally who you are is your greatest asset.
Christopher Sieber (Trent Oliver): My advice for the young people who are maybe struggling with who they are, where they fit in: stay weird. I know it’s hard, but this is the hard part. Soon you’ll find your own path, don’t worry about others. It’s your journey, not theirs. It does get better and you will find your tribe...I promise!
McCalla: It’s ok to not know who you are. And remember you don’t need to prove things to other people in order to be considered cool. Being popular is not nearly as important as self-acceptance. And there are a ton of people out there who are just as confused as you are. Trust your heart. In a way, unabashedly being yourself is the most courageous thing you can do.
Lamon: High School was an awful experience for me. What I have to say is BREATHE. Stay true to yourselves. We are all beautiful weirdos in a totally imperfect world. Keep going. Cause you can make your dreams come true. I did.
Kinnunen: Keep going! Keep experimenting! Try different things and figure out what you do want in life. There is no time limit. You can go one way and then decide to go another. Don’t let people box you in and make your life choices for you.
Schworer: I would want high school students to know they are not alone in any kind of confusion they have about their lives. Stay true to yourself and love who you want. Stand strong in your individuality!
Collins: It’s okay not to know what you want to do. Follow your heart. Try different things. Work hard at everything. Be your best self every day. Reach out and help others. Find ways to love yourself and those around you. It all begins and ends with love.
A big thank you to all of the cast for sitting down with us and telling us not only about the show, but about their own personal experiences in high school. Visit the show page now to book your tickets to what is promising to be the heartwarming hit of the season!