The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

TheatreUNI brings “Heathers” to life

 Over the weekend, UNI opened up their first theater production of the semester, and it’s a production that will for sure not be forgotten. “Heathers” is a dark comedic adaptation of the 1989 cult classic film of the same name written by Daniel Waters and directed by Michael Lehmann, that starred both Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. It would later be adapted into the acclaimed and familiar musical that many would recognize today around 2010, by Andy Fickman. 

“Heathers” received a lot of positive reception by both critics and audience members, and has been praised for how it tells the narrative that many have come to enjoy over the years, whether on screen or on stage. It follows the story of Veronica Sawyer, as she struggles to navigate her life at Westerburg High, located in a small suburban town in Ohio, where cliques and jocks dominate the flow of her school. 

Students a part of the TheatreUNI program knocked it out of the park with this production. Though it pokes fun at the familiar and classic tropes within the genre of teen and coming-of-age plays and films, it handles a lot of the subject matter in a mature and appropriate sense. The musical delves into the issues of teen suicide, bullying, social stances and mental health, to name a few. It navigates the social hierarchy of high school in a clever way that would eventually pave the way for many films, television series and plays that take place within high school. 

This adaptation stays true to the source material that is based off of while also adding some new elements to fit the elements of theatre in a smoother and less complex fashion. By the very beginning of the first act, you will stay glued into everything that unfolds in the plot and discover how amazing the department of theatre here at UNI is at bringing stories to life, for entertainment purposes or even to send a message. 

The production had a lot of creative minds behind it and it really grabs your attention as soon as the curtains open up. Matthew J. Weedman’s direction keeps you invested and the characters are spontaneous and are essentially extravagant parodies of classic high school cliques. The cast does an astonishing job at keeping the people watching this fully engaged and makes sure that you’re transported right into the world of “Heathers.” TheatreUNI’s cast brings the characters of “Heathers” to life. 

Leading the show with her amazing performance, Lauren Steelman, a third year majoring in Theatre Performance and Theatre for Youth said, “Veronica reminds me so much of myself in a way when it comes to just being myself and always looking out for others as well. I’ve never been in a big musical quite like this one, and when I found out that TheatreUNI was doing this production, I knew I just had to audition. The experience has been fantastic! Some might even say it’s been ‘big fun’! My director has been a really great influence, and has pushed me into the actor I am today. TheatreUNI is amazing, and the faculty are incredible and have been incredibly helpful as well.” 

Steelman continued, stating, “I’ve always wanted to perform. Being able to be on stage, and putting a smile on people’s faces is why I love to perform, and also just putting on one hell of a show! My goals after UNI are to hopefully continue to perform and someday make it to Broadway.” 

Communications student Braelyn Ensor, who plays the role of Heather Duke, explained how the show has impacted her. 

“I would say honestly, I had a very very positive experience. Everyone, the cast was amazing and very professional, wonderful, well-trained people, especially welcoming in someone who has never done theatre on this scale before.” 

Ensor explains that of all of her theatrical experiences, this is the first of Ensor’s college career, which presents new challenges, and new experiences. 

“I’ve done community theatre, I’ve done high school theatre, never like a college production. So it was really great to get to know these people who are much more experienced than I am and they were so very kind, thoughtful, and helpful but not only that, but I think that the directors are, again, amazing, very professional people, and care a lot about students which I value a lot. Basically it’s just been a very positive experience overall.”

Head of the Department of Theatre and UNI Artistic Director, William Hickman notes, “This season offers comedy, horror, family entertainment, and killer music,” and so far, stays true to his word for what is to come in the near future within the magic and art that TheatreUNI contains. 

The next showing of the musical “Heathers” will premiere once again on Friday, March 1 at 7:30 p.m. in Strayer-Wood Theater. 

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