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From the ITF Main Stage: My Heart Says Go

My Heart Says Go - Warsaw Community High School

Every year, the International Thespian Festival (ITF) main stage is graced by some of the most talented high school theatre performers from around the world. In 2024, Thespian Troupe 5648 from Warsaw Community High School (Indiana) will continue the tradition with their production of My Heart Says Go.

Celebrating themes of risk-taking and the power of persistence, My Heart Says Go follows first-generation college student Indigo, who defies his father and drops out of medical school to become a singer-songwriter. Accompanied by a new friend, Clara – who has her own struggles at home – Indigo’s journey is an empowering anthem for the next generation and a loving reminder to listen to your heart, overcome obstacles, and never give up on those you love.

Ahead of ITF 2024, troupe director Melany Morris shared insights into the production.

Why this show? What was the spark or idea behind choosing it?

After seeing the community theatre premiere of My Heart Says Go, I knew I had to get it on my stage. I joined the rest of the audience in a standing ovation with tears in my eyes. I just had that feeling: the heart swelling, speechless, the most-incredible-work-of-theatre feeling. I had just experienced the magic of theatre. I knew it was perfect for my upcoming juniors and seniors, I knew it was perfect for my community and perfect for my goal of being selected for Main Stage.

On the way home from the show I sent co-creator Matt Hawkins an email. It took about three months of zoom calls, meetings with administration, and lots of email chains to get this musical approved. It honestly felt like the longest three months of my life, it was so hard keeping it a secret from my students, but I am so happy with my decision to do this show. It has been the most rewarding experience of my career.

ITF Registration is Open!

Registration closes May 1, 2024.

Start planning today!

The cast of Thespians from Warsaw Community High School performing My Heart Says Go.

How did you involve your students in the creative process and decision-making for the show?

Students are heavily involved in all our productions at Warsaw Community High School. We have students in the following positions: choreographer, hair and makeup designer, costume designer, costume shop manager, prop manager, stage manager, sound and mic operator, and spotlight operators. All our student leader positions were given freedom to make decisions and take ownership in their areas.

Has your vision for the show evolved as you’ve prepared it for the ITF stage?

Like any good work of theatre, it is always evolving. While the intended story is still present, our actors have definitely deepened their understanding of their characters. This has resulted in a stronger and more cohesive show. Spending this much time with a show also helps to give students time to really dig into their characters and settle into the scene changes and choreography. They now work together like a well-oiled machine.

The cast of Thespians from Warsaw Community High School performing My Heart Says Go.

Got a fun rehearsal moment, practice, or activity that’s helping you prep?

We got the opportunity to perform My Heart Says Go at the Indiana Thespians State Conference. It was a great experience not only because we got to perform to hundreds of theatre kids (the best audience ever) — we also got a practice run in taking our entire show to another venue, setting it up, and taking it down. It was an eye-opening experience for all involved. We definitely learned a lot and are even more prepared to bring this show to ITF.

How do you balance the educational aspects with the artistic demands of directing a high school production?

Balancing being a full-time theatre teacher and director can be a big challenge! Theatre takes a village, so I delegate. I have student leaders in every area possible, they take ownership and take a lot off my plate. I also have a great group of adults that are dedicated to the success of our troupe. Delegation is a learned skill.

At the start of my teaching career, I thought I could and should do it all myself. Now in year five I’m happy to sit back and watch my students and adults take charge. Next I’m going to work on finding that work/life balance!

The cast of Thespians from Warsaw Community High School performing My Heart Says Go.

What is one piece of advice you would share with troupes hoping to make main stage next year?

Directors, pick a show that speaks to your heart and soul! You’re going to have to pour a lot of yourself into this show, so make sure you are IN LOVE with it – you’re going to be stuck with it (hopefully, happily stuck) for a long time, potentially an entire year.

You also must have your students’ buy-in. My group was so dedicated to this process from the beginning, at times they were working harder than me to get this show on its feet. This is my favorite show I’ve done to date.

What do you hope the audience takes away from your show, and why is this important to you?

I hope the audience gets a chance to see things that aren’t often represented in the media or theatre on stage at ITF. This show talks about a lot of heavy [topics], abusive and alcoholic parents, anxiety disorders and panic attacks, the pressure to stay inside the lines, and suicide.

It seems like a lot when you see it all typed out like that, but the creators of My Heart Says Go did a beautiful job of conveying this story in a responsible way that allows viewers to process these tough moments and reflect on their own lives and experiences. We’ve had audience members tell us this show finally allowed them to grieve the loss of a parent or loved one or allowed old wounds to start to heal. Theatre is beautiful in that way.

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