The High School That Went Wrong!

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Photo Courtesy of The Woodlands High School

Not only did the Drama Program at The Woodlands High School in The Woodlands, Texas help Mischief and Broadway Licensing in the development of the high school edition of the hit Broadway show, THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG (TPTGW), but they also presented the World Premiere production.

In this edition of The Scene, we speak with The Woodlands High School’s Matthew Peters on his experience in developing and directing this show.  The following has been edited for length and clarity.

THE SCENE: Thank you for speaking with us today, Matthew. Please tell our readers a little about your work as a theatre educator?

MATTHEW: I have been teaching now for 15 years! I started my teaching career at Elsik High School in Houston, Texas and have been teaching the last 10 years at The Woodlands High School in The Woodlands, Texas. I am one of the acting directors at our school and I’m also the speech and improv coach. I currently serve as President on the Executive Board of Texas Thespians, and as the State’s Festival Director. The improv background definitely helped me with TPTGW!

THE SCENE:  What was your initial reaction to seeing TPTGW for the first time?

MATTHEW: I’ve actually never seen a professional production of the play. I was supposed to see the show on tour, but then COVID hit, and everything shut down. I have scoured the internet for clips and backstage tours, and I think I have seen everything that is out there about the show. I know on my next trip to New York or if it comes through Houston, I am definitely checking it out!

THE SCENE: How did you get the opportunity to help develop and produce the first High School production of the play?

MATTHEW: David Abbinanti at Broadway Licensing was aware of my history directing improv comedy (State Champs in ’16, ’18, and ’21) and my involvement with Texas Thespians. David contacted me about helping to develop and pilot the High School Edition of TPTGW!  Shortly after being introduced, I hopped on a call with David and the Mischief team and we got the ball rolling.

THE SCENE:  One of the most challenging parts of producing TPTGW is building a set that’s completely destroyed by the end of show. How did you overcome this?

MATTHEW: We had about 4 or 5 ideas that we thought of to make this happen! It really was trial and error to find what worked best for us and our space. We also knew we were hoping to bring the show to Texas Thespian State Festival, so we had to make it easy to travel. Once we had a plan in place we built some prototypes, tested them without actors, and then with actors (really slow at first!). Once we found what worked for us, it was automatic when those walls fell. We did have to do a lot of repairs and touch-ups when they did fall, but our crew was amazing!

THE SCENE:  How did your students, both on stage and off enjoy the experience of TPTGW? What do you think they learned by being a part of this show?

MATHEW: They loved it! The material from Mischief is just so great and relatable to anyone who has done any kind of theatre. They loved being able to create something from the ground up and make it their own. This show is written in a way that every company who does it gets to make choices and that is so liberating for young actors. I think for this show, they learned problem-solving most of all. When you are the first to do something, you want to make sure it’s the best it can be for future companies, so figuring out each set or prop challenge and the timing was fun to tackle.

THE SCENE: What was the local community’s reaction to the show?

MATTHEW: Our community loved it! So many people came up and told me it was their favorite show they have seen us do. I think it is such a great show for any level of theatre interest. There is wordplay, physical comedy, subtle comedy, etc. that anyone can find enjoyable!

THE SCENE: What advice would you give to a theater teacher who’s thinking of producing TPTGW with their program?

MATTHEW: DO IT! It really was a fun process and great show to work on. Our company came together, and we still have a group chat where we talk about our memories and keep in touch. It will be challenging, and you will have some bumps, but what show doesn’t? I truly believe it is the perfect show to spark the love of theatre in anyone who comes and sees it.

THE SCENE: Anything else you would like to say to fellow theatre educators thinking about producing TPTGW?

MATTHEW:  I’m always happy to speak with anyone who needs help with the show. I can be contacted directly at [email protected] with any questions and if a virtual meeting is better, I can always do that too!

THE SCENE: That’s a really generous offer, I’m sure you will be hearing from educators across the county very soon. Thank you for speaking with us today.

Click here for more information on THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG (HIGH SCHOOL EDITION).

Also for your viewing pleasure check out these great clips from The Goes Wrong Show! The Television show from the team at Mischief!

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