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Penn State Thespians Present Dark Comedy ‘Heathers The Musical’

The Penn State Thespians return to the horrors of high school this week in their performance of “Heathers The Musical.”

The musical — based on the 1988 cult-classic film of the same name — follows high schooler Veronica Sawyer as she goes from outcast to a member of the most prestigious clique at Westerberg High: the Heathers.

Heather Chandler, Heather Duke, and Heather McNamara turn Veronica into one of them, allowing her to climb the social ladder and gain the attention she longingly desires. This includes sitting at the “cool” lunch table, getting drunk at parties, and attracting the attention of cute boys.

George Liu | Onward State

Just before Veronica has a chance to be comfortable at the top of the food chain, she defends her best friend and misfit Martha after the Heathers play a cruel prank on her, and falls in love with the suspicious, trench coat-wearing J.D.

The dark comedy tackles subjects such as bullying, eating disorders, sexual assault, violence, and the toxic social hierarchy of high school. These are all topics that Director Laney Pleasanton sees as relevant in today’s society.

“Even though it’s set in 1989, it’s a timeless story. High school hierarchies have always been present and they always will be present,” Pleasanton said. “There is always going to be the popular versus the not popular.”

George Liu | Onward State

When choosing an actor the play the lead role of Veronica, Pleasanton knew that she wanted her to be able to tell a story about the growth and choices made by the dynamic character.

“Throughout the show Veronica goes on a really important journey where she is trying to find out where she fits in…and I think she finds out a lot about herself along the way,” Pleasanton said.

Lauren Bauer, a freshman who was heavily involved in high school theater, makes her college debut as Veronica — the character who experiences a massive transformation throughout the show.

“I like how she goes through so many transformations, but she still is herself,” Bauer said. “She still has her confidence and her little bit of quirk that she carries with her, and I really like how that is shown throughout the entire show and never really lost.”

George Liu | Onward State

Bauer studied Winona Ryder’s portrayal of Veronica in the film and listened to the musical soundtrack non-stop in order to develop the emotions needed to play a complex character like Veronica.

“It was hard to master the confidence [Veronica] carries while still being able to be vulnerable and changed by J.D.’s ideas…and be manipulated but still carry that confidence,” Bauer said.

This isn’t the first show junior Evan Cuccaro has been involved in at Penn State, but it is the first time he has had the opportunity to play a villain like J.D. and explore sensitive topics like bullying and mental health issues.

“[‘Heathers The Musical’] has very heavy themes about bullying and also suicide — which is a very serious topic — and Heathers is satirical in its critiques about suicide while keeping it at the forefront and making sure it is portrayed in a responsible manner,” Cuccaro said.

George Liu | Onward State

While the musical does explore dark themes, Cuccaro also sees a bigger picture he hopes the audience thinks about when they leave the theatre.

“Veronica is the character…who believes there is good in everyone and there is still hope,” Cuccaro says. “Obviously that is counteracted by J.D., but in the end that wins…We have the power to change things and look at the world and stop what harms us.”

Thespians will perform Heathers The Musical at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, October 10 and Friday, October 11 as well as at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, October 12 in Schwab Auditorium. Tickets are $4.98 for students, $4.99 for children under 12, and $12 for community members. They can be purchased with cash at the door or in the HUB this week.

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About the Author

Cassady Potts

Cassady is a junior English and journalism major and Onward State's Student Life Editor. She is from York, Pennsylvania and loves iced coffee, books, and women's volleyball. You can find her on campus by looking for the girl who always wears stripes. Feel free to send any questions, comments, or memes via email ([email protected]) and follow her @cassady_potts on Twitter.

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