EVART — A high schooler with a big dream and the determination to pull it off: that’s the way Evart High School Principal Jessica Kolenda would describe one of her seniors.
Austin Rueffer is taking on the challenge of producing a musical he wrote over the summer on top of being in his final year of high school.
It all started with wanting a challenge and a list of issues he felt were under or not properly represented in the world of Broadway musicals.
“I am very inspired by musicals but I noticed something was missing when it came to those focused on high school,‘ he said. “I wanted something more ‘real.’‘
And out of this want to represent more of the issues facing high schoolers, came “The Golden Ribbon Society.‘
With a focus on six teens who are struggling with things like anxiety and depression, teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse and sexuality.
“There isn’t one character that is in this play that you won’t be able to relate to on some level,‘ said Evart High School Principal Jessica Kolenda. “I see these six kids walking in the halls of Evart High School right now.‘
“I wanted to make sure everyone had a voice, even those who may not directly identify can find something,‘ said Rueffer.
One of the few issues Rueffer does not touch upon in his musical is the issue of race.
“When creating the characters and the issues they faced, I had to keep in mind what I would have available in the way of casting,‘ said Rueffer. “I didn’t want to write a character whose character focused on race and end up not being able to cast someone in that role.‘
Started by two of the main characters, Henry and Nora Lynn, the Golden Ribbon Society gives students a place to talk about what is going on in their lives and not feel alone.
“I went with a golden ribbon because colors like blue and purple are kind of dark. I wanted something that was bright. That is kind of what the society is designed to be, a beacon of light in the darkness these students are going through.‘
The society becomes a sort of “underground support group,‘ said Rueffer.
“It becomes this message of everyone is going through something and you never know until you sit down and take the time to learn,‘ he said.
After reading the musical, Kolenda said she cried several times and believes that this is something that could help start a conversation about the mental health of teens today.
“This could really help normalize these kinds of situations,‘ said Kolenda. “The subjects tackled in this musical are issues that should be talked about more. This is something that could help spark an important conversation.‘
Though he would love to be in production right now, Rueffer’s musical is still in the early stages of production.
“I’m going into some uncharted territory here,‘ he said. “I have been in a few plays but there are many areas I have no experience in.‘
In thinking about all he had to do, Rueffer still needs assistance with set design, lighting, composition, finding musicians, recording songs and stage management.
Anyone interested in helping Rueffer put on this musical can contact him via Facebook or shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.