Mulqueen-Teasdale Setting GHS Stage for ‘Legally Blonde’
Among the many exciting theatre opportunities that Cara Mulqueen-Teasdale has helped to usher in and foster at Guilford High School (GHS), she’s once again directing students in an exciting spring musical. This time, Cara is helping to set the stage for the GHS Theatre Arts program’s true-to-Broadway production of Legally Blonde.
“It’s very true to the Broadway production, right down to a couple of dogs. We have two dog actors, as well!” says Cara. “The student actors are absolutely fantastic, the dance is incredible, and we’re loving the costumes. There’s a lot of pink! There’s something for everyone.”
Cara also credits the production’s student vocalists and instrumentalists in the pit crew (under the direction of Mark Gahm) for accomplishing amazing results with the show’s challenging music.
As always, Cara is grateful for the support of Theatre Arts Parent Support (TAPS), an all-volunteer organization of GHS parents and community members who support the theatre arts program.
Right now, TAPS members are hard at work promoting ticket sales for five performances of Legally Blonde in the GHS Performing Arts Center at 605 New England Road. Show dates are Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16 at 7 p.m.; Sunday, March 17 at 2 p.m; and Friday, March 22 and Saturday, March 23 at 7 p.m. Digital tickets are available online now at ghsta.weebly.com and also at the Nathanael B. Greene Community Center at 32 Church Street. Reserved seats are $20. Students and seniors $15.
This inspirational, feel-good musical is supported both on stage and backstage by a student cast and crew that spans the spectrum of the GHS community, says Cara.
“We haven’t had this many kids audition since West Side Story, when we first moved into the building,” said Cara. “What’s totally fascinating to me is that we have so many athletes, so many boys, and you wouldn’t think that Legally Blonde would draw that crew. It’s been so much fun to have first-time visitors to the theatre department.”
Cara said the growing theatre arts interest among students is also a credit to GHS and its curricular foundations.
“What’s unique in Guilford is that performing arts is seen as a part of a whole-person education,” Cara says.
Cara adds that bringing in students of different interests to support the production highlights the spirit of unity inherent to theatre.
“It is a place of work and joy, and collaboration, and cooperation,” says Cara.
Cara joined the GHS faculty in the English department in 2007 and first began leading the GHS Theatre Arts program in 2011. However, her GHS roots go much further back than that. As a member of the GHS Class of 1986, Cara fully understands the tradition and culture of arts programming at this school.
“One of the things that I cherish and really value about Guilford and the school—and the history of the town—is the community support of the spring musical, and the fact that it draws from students across the board,” Cara says. “It’s one of the few places, in my opinion, at Guilford High School where reliably we have kids coming from every single branch of the student body. And it’s really moving to see them put together something that makes the community so happy.”
Cara primarily teaches theatre studies at GHS as the department chair of a program that has grown substantially during her tenure.
“When I became the department chair, one of the goals I really wanted to make sure that we focused on was to be sure the stagecraft were being represented, and that they were a fully formed arm of the theatre company,” says Cara.
In theatre, stagecraft involves technical aspects such as constructing and rigging scenery and sets, hanging and focusing lighting, design and procurement of costumes, makeup, stage management, sound engineering, and props procurement.
Cara notes that these areas provide “on-ramps” for students to participate in a production beyond what are often limited cast opportunities. She also thanks the many experienced educators and professionals that she’s curated as stagecraft advisors who work with students to develop their skills.
When the curtain comes up for each show, Cara also makes sure these students receive recognition for their contributions to the production.
“We always do the crew bows before the play begins because I think it’s really important for the community to see that, for every kid on stage, there’s four or five kids backstage making them look amazing.”
At GHS, Cara also enjoys teaching a literature and technology cooperative course, “Voyages and Vessels,” in which students study maritime literature and build a small craft that must pass a float test.
Additionally, Cara has the distinct honor of being the GHS International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme Theatre teacher.
“When the school district decided to apply to become an IB World School, I was approached with the idea of whether or not I would like to teach the IB theatre component,” says Cara.
Cara leaped at the opportunity and received training to become an IB educator. She says that the program’s value cannot be underestimated.
“I’m kind of evangelical about the program,” says Cara. “I think it makes for well-rounded thinkers and great students, and we get the benefit of working with them for two years at a time. It’s just an extraordinary program.”
The IB course is a true theatre studies course, rather than a performance course.
“You’re studying theatre from the perspective of a creator, a director, a designer, a performer, but also as a spectator,” Cara says. “The kids who take the class become more informed participants in the performing arts, but they also become consumers of the arts. It’s been really satisfying, and our students are doing so well.”
Throughout the past 10 years, some program alumni have gone on to study theatre arts at prestigious programs like The Julliard School, Oberlin College, Ithaca College, Fordham University, Pace University, New York University, and Carnegie Mellon.
“I’m just so proud of the places they’re going, and to think that it all started for them at this school. It’s really satisfying,” says Cara.
Cara says that due to the growth of academic theatre programs at GHS, students’ perception of the parts they may play as either cast or crew in school musicals has also become sharpened.
“They’re coming to the table now even better educated. It’s not just a matter of talent. The kids in Guilford are talented, it’s true, but they’re not any different than talented kids anywhere else,” Cara says. “I think the difference is we have a school and community that’s decided to invest in their education as performing artists and as people. So, they’re coming in well-educated and prepared, and that makes directing them that much more exciting. I do think that makes the difference.”