From MC to RMT: How MC Alumni Are Shaped by Their Theatre Experiences

The movie Heathers has many iconic lines, including “Dear Diary: My teen angst bulls*** now has a body count,”—”Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?” and “How very,” an expression of boredom and disinterest in what others are saying. This must have been the opposite reaction Summer Dinner Theatre (SDT) and Montgomery College Performing Arts alumni Jay Conner, Michael McCarthy, and Kurtis Carter had when they were cast in Rockville Musical Theatre’s production of Heathers.

Performed at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn in March, the play is based on the cult classic starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater.

Westerberg High is ruled by a shoulder-padded, scrunchie-wearing junta: Heather, Heather, and Heather, the hottest and cruelest girls in all of Ohio. But misfit Veronica Sawyer rejects their evil regime for a new boyfriend, the dark and sexy stranger J.D., who plans to put the Heathers in their place—six feet under.

“There are cliques no matter if you are in school, work, and just in life. Everyone is trying to navigate their way,” director Lee Michele Rosenthal said on why this show impacts audiences. As for why Rosenthal wanted to direct the show, she loved the 1989 movie and “was happy to see the adaptation to a musical” in 2014.

She identifies with the heroine Veronica Sawyer the most since she was “friends with people in all ‘cliques’ in high school.” Luckily, “there were really no mean girls when I was there,” she chuckled.
Jay Conner is in the ensemble and was active in SDT’s productions of “West Side Story,” “Side Show,” and “Catch Me If You Can.” “[SDT has] made my summers infinitely better,” he said. While he will not participate in the cast this season, Conner mentioned wanting to be the musical director for the upcoming SDT productions “Spamalot” or “Sweet Charity.”

All the artists and teachers inspire Conner to be the best he can, Conner said. In terms of Heathers, Conner said that the cast made the show special for him. When asked why it was still iconic to this day, he responded, “Because of Winona Ryder.”

Audience member Danielle Friedman-Hill believes that Heathers is relevant for a different reason. “It is still relevant today because many newer stories, plays, and movies have similar plots, from the classic ‘Mean Girls’ to the newer Disney movies!” Friedman-Hill said.
“Adults have been through these experiences and can draw from that to get to the characters I was looking for,” Rosenthal said on casting mainly adults in this teenager-dominated show.

A prime example of this in action, according to Friedman-Hill, was when Heather McNamara, the most vulnerable of the Heathers, sang the song “Lifeboat,” conveying her desperation to be accepted despite her depression and thoughts of suicide.

For Friedman-Hill, this story is special “because of all the memories I have of the story, from seeing the movie on Netflix to experiencing the play with a number of people in various places.” She continued, saying that even with the variations, “the same values are always the focus,” from loyalty to choosing your own path to ignoring the status quo.

Rosenthal’s favorite quote is more profound: “Everybody’s life has static. It’s just true.” Friedman-Hill’s and Conner’s favorite quote is more iconic to Heathers fans due to its unexpectedness in the story: “F*** me gently with a chainsaw.”