Carver, Kinkaid schools come together for "Hairspray" production

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Schools use "Hairspray" production to talk about race relations. (KTRK)

The musical "Hairspray" is about embracing diversity and racial equality. Some young actors in the Houston area are embracing that theme in a very real way.

Theater students from George Washington Carver High School in Aldine ISD and The Kinkaid School are putting on a joint production of the musical.

"At the beginning of the process, we were all really nervous," Kinkaid sophomore Ashton Lambert said. "And I know I was pretty terrified. I was intimidated by them because they were so talented."

Carver High School junior Gerra Gistand says everyone was more accepting than she thought they would be.

"I think as human beings we naturally have some hesitations with meeting new people," Gistand said.

"We started off a little distant, and we would sit on different sides of the cafeteria," Kinkaid junior Brock Looser added.

Kinkaid theater teacher Justin Doran had the idea for his students to perform Hairspray. But there was one problem.

"Knowing the makeup of our school: It is rather homogeneous. I know Carver has an equally homogeneous population. So I said what if we come together to put this on," Doran said.

He took the idea to Carver's theater teacher, Roshunda Jones. She says she'd always wanted to do "Hairspray" and this was the perfect opportunity for her students.

Several months and countless rehearsals later, the students are inseparable.

"Once the students started working together, they became inseparable," Jones said. "They even combined the schools' names. We are now Carkaid, which I think is phenomenal."

The musical uses comedy and music to talk about racial tensions in 1960s Baltimore as Brock Looser's character, Tracy Turnblad, tries to integrate a teen dance TV show. The current state of race relations was not lost on the students.

"It actually started where we were a little nervous to talk about race, because it's obviously still an issue today," Looser said. "But we ended up having the conversations where we could openly ask each other honest questions."

"We love theater. And to express segregation, to express integration through that, through what we love to do has been the best part about it," Carver senior Kiera Prusmack added.

They performed the show at Carver over the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday weekend. They'll perform it this weekend at the Kinkaid school to wrap up Black History Month.

"It was so fun to perform it at Carver. But this audience is going to be so different," Lambert said. "So I'm interested to see how the Kinkaid audience thinks about it differently than the Carver audience saw it."

Perhaps bigger than any performance are the lasting friendships.

"I am the newest member of the Looser family," Gistand joked.

Furthermore, lessons they've learned from one another will go with them after the final curtain has fallen.

"The best part of this whole experience is growth," Carver sophomore Bishop Pearsall said. "We've all grown a lot throughout this process."

"Listening to other voices leads to success," Doran explained. "So it's our job as educators to make those opportunities. And we were able to do this on a really big scale."

"Through art, we can have these conversations about what's been happening today, and what has happened in the past and it's completely comfortable," Looser added.

The "Hairspray" musical runs through this weekend, with showtimes on Friday and Saturday at 7:00pm. The final show is set for Sunday at 2:00pm.
Related Topics:
educationhigh schoolmusicalHarris County
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