“Prospect High: Brooklyn” Makes Illinois Debut at Niles West


Junior Grant Kilian rehearses for Niles West Theatre's upcoming play, "Prospect High: Brooklyn" on Feb. 16, 2016.

By Thea Gonzales

Sophomore Alina Connie playing Bria in the production Prospect High: Brooklyn on Tuesday, February 16th in the Black Box theater.
Sophomore Alina Connie plays Bria in the production “Prospect High: Brooklyn” on Tuesday, Feb. 16 in the Black Box theater. Photo by Jenna George

Selected for the nationwide world premiere of “Prospect High: Brooklyn,” Niles West Theatre has chosen to perform the play with two separate casts: the Green and the Gold cast. The Green cast’s performances are scheduled to take place on Friday, Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 20 at 4 p.m.; the Gold cast’s performances are scheduled to take place on Friday, Feb. 19 at 4 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 20 at 7:30 p.m.

For director Andy Sinclair, double casting is something that he has never tried before in his career.

“…It always scared me. I always tell my students that true art comes from doing what scares us– and doing it well. I was scared of the risk of competition between the two casts and if that would dispel negative energy. The result has been quite the opposite. The diversity in performances has enriched both casts to assist each other and to create two very unique productions on the same text,” Sinclair said.

Green cast member Vasilios Rosenzweig is making his Niles West Theatre debut along with the show and has felt the power of the show’s message through its profound dialogue and relevant issues of discussion.

“This show is very powerful. It sends a message of what it can be like as a teenager, specifically in a bad neighborhood. It discusses issues of kids not being the problem, being pushed to their breaking point, and the stress on poorly paid teachers. As a teenager in this society, we can fully understand and respect the depth of this play. This is my first play … I can tell you that it’s unbelievable what they’ve done. I really felt something I didn’t before and it made me feel even more attached to this experience. This show is extremely well done and I’m very proud to say that I’m a part of it,” Rosenzweig said. 

“Prospect High” centers on a currently extant high school in Brooklyn and the lives of several students who are in some way involved with a student named Devon who showcases the true-to-life apathy, self-destruction, and desire for revenge that is present in high school adolescents. The recommended audience is 13 years or older. With a flexible cast and a mission to evoke awareness and thought, Niles West Theatre’s “Prospect High” also focuses on issues such as racism, the transgender community, and the humanity of high school teachers.

Among the plot-heavy components of the show are technical features that facilitate the telling of the story.

“I have never worked with a set like this before in the four years that I have been involved in theatre. I think that the turn table that the crew has put together has allowed the transition between scenes to run faster and smoother. The set also helps tell the story of the play. I think that there are many cool technical elements, but the one stands out to me the most is the projection screen, which has images of people and events that further emphasizes the realism of the show, and allows you the audience to feel as though they are part of the world of the play as well,” sound lead Negin Motlagh said.

With projections that come onto the set and a real-time clock coming down from the ceiling, “Prospect High: Brooklyn” brings a refreshing and poignant reality to the stage, hoping to reach students and community members alike with its message.

“I would describe this show as a slice of life in an urban high school setting. It is real, it is gritty, it is vulgar– and it is authentic to many teenagers’ lives. My director’s note in the program talks about the fact that some audiences won’t want to hear the characters’ messages– it is scary and abrupt. However, if we listen, we may learn. This could lead to the change we need in society. Sometimes the messages aren’t pretty or easy to swallow. However, those are the ones we need to hear the most,” Sinclair said.