Creative Allusions Productions will be performing “Standardized Testing – The Musical!!!!” under the direction of producer and instructor Peter Maier tonight. The production pokes fun at the infamous exams that many high schoolers are forced to take while integrating music, dancing and a plot that follows eight teenagers as they explore their friendships and their individualities – all over the course of one test.
Creative Allusions was created in 2009, when Maier took some students under his wing after the producers of their show backed out of a festival at the last minute. Maier formed the company as a means to “see the project through to the end.” As a result, the actors earned a gold medal designation at the Junior Theatre Festival in Atlanta. Maier said that CAP was a longtime dream of his, and that the events of 2009 gave him “the push needed to get it going.”
“Standardized Testing – The Musical!!!!” is the company’s first production performed as a non-summer camp show. It is also the first performance in which Maier is producing everything, including publicity and ticket sales. Maier also will be featured in the show with former students, many of whom are pursuing careers in the professional arts. Some of the students featured in the production are the same students that were part of CAP when the company began.
Jacob Reid, a senior at SUNY Fredonia, plays the role of Alberto Suarez, a video-game-crazed teenager who is often judged for his obsession with fantasy universes and World of Warcraft.
As a freshman to Creative Allusions Productions, Reid takes pride in his character. He believes it “shows kids that you should never be ashamed of being who you are, despite of what people say is ‘cool’ or not.”
Josh Wilde, a junior at Clarence High School, plays the character of Tyler who has ADD, which affects his memory and his mind during the test. Josh has been with CAP since the beginning of the company. He especially likes the show because it is “very funny and witty” and there is “a lot of irony present throughout the show.”
Josh also notes how “this show unveils the true human spirit that standardized tests fail to truly bring out.”
When asked why he chose “Standardized Testing – The Musical!!!!” as this season’s production, Maier said that he “thought it was just the right time to poke fun at it” in light of “all of the hubbub of standardized testing and the Common Core.”
While admitting to not knowing any answers to the state education system, the producer believes “we take ourselves too seriously ... people tend to dig in and take it as a personal affront if someone tries to bring a differing opinion to the table.”
As a former classroom teacher, Maier notes that “students are more than a series of grades and tests.”
While the musical takes place during a standardized test, the director said that most of the plot lies within the relationships between the characters, and that they are something that “cannot be quantified by filling in those Scantron bubbles.” While the “bubble tests” are admittedly a fast means of assessment, they lead Maier to ask if we are “teaching facts or ... teaching how to think? Are we teaching and testing toward mediocrity?”
Maier said he wants to open a conversation. “To keep me from going off the deep end of educational rhetoric, I need to laugh. I’m laughing at myself,” he said. “I’m laughing at those who, like a petulant child, cover their ears shouting, ‘I’m not listening’ ... I just hope this laughter will get people to come out from their bunkers and realize that the education field should not be a war zone. Let’s work together to come up with the best answer possible for the students.”
The production is hoping to move many to laughter, following a test structure: a multiple choice section of solos; a 15-minute break, and a free response section in which the students “expose their deepest concerns, aspirations and sources of suburban teen angst.”
The show opens at 7 tonight in the Harlem Road Community Center, 4255 Harlem Road, Amherst. It will continue at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and next Thursday, Jan. 10 and 11. Call 523-3572 for tickets.
Erika Talbot is a senior at St. Mary’s High School in Lancaster.