“In the beginning, there was only darkness,” begins the H.U.M.A.N.S musical
co-created and produced by 14-year-olds Johnathan “Newport” Breaux and Colton Carroll.
H.U.M.A.N.S., an acronym that stands for Highly Intelligent Unit of Motivated Adapting and Nutritious Sentience, is a personified story about the beginning of life. The musical does not have any religious or scientific objective but is rather an upbeat and hilariously dramatic retelling about the clash between Evolution and Extinction – along with their many friends and foes.
The characters, also known as the “makers,” are not humans, but “personified
abstract concepts.” There are three rules which dictate and move the story along: sing it-don’t say it; never make a deal with the devil; and don’t say hi to mother nature – she tends to pop up at random times while everyone yells at her to “go away!”
The musical premiered at Robinson Secondary School and had two live performances Saturday, June 17 and Monday, June 19.
THE MUSICAL is an outside of school drama enrichment program that is independent from Robinson SS and is a student guided and initiated project. However, the school did allow the musical to be hosted at their facilities.
Initially a filmmaker, Johnathan “Newport” Breaux – using the stage name of Johnathan Newport – created the idea for H.U.M.A.N.S. as a short film which was written, directed and starred in by Johnathan.
“My original idea was the apocalypse with puppets and I realized that was a really bad idea,” Breaux said. “I was reading this book on natural selection and what not, and I was like ‘Oh, what if I were to personify this and make this into a narrative thing?’”
The film, currently an official selection for six film festivals across the United States, won a few prizes. Later, Johnathan sent the film to his good friend Carroll and ideas to expand the story began to fly in.
“As a joke we were like, ‘What if we made this a musical?’” Breaux said. “Then people heard about the joke and were like ‘Wow that’s a great idea! I’m going to start spreading it.’ Then everybody heard about it and [Colton and I] were like ‘Okay, might as well make this an actual thing now.’”
Colton and Johnathan enjoyed collaborating and coming up with witty lines for the musical.
“[My favorite part is] the one where the Devil is beating up Extinction and she calls him-this is my favorite line ever – a ‘self-righteous narcissistic grenade,’” Colton said. “I don’t know why but that imagery just really stuck with me.”
The musical even garnered the attention of Jeff Marx, composer and Tony Award winner for the Broadway musical, Avenue Q. Marx stopped by Robinson and asked to see some of the music composed by Johnathan and Colton.
“He was like ‘I wrote my first musical when I was 23! You guys are starting at fourteen!.,” Johnathan said.
Once Johnathan and Colton needed to raise money for their eighth grade Advanced Drama trip to New York City, the idea to establish and produce a musical turned into a more alluring idea as they thought of using ticket sales as a method to raise money.
“We decided, let’s put on a show and then we’ll use the funds to go to New York,” Colton said. “Then stuff fell through, we couldn’t always get people to act with us after school. So, then we had to decide to make the decision to not rehearse on school grounds.”
Johnathan, with the help of his mother, Sara Breaux, hosted auditions for the musical at their residence. Thirty kids from Robinson SS came to the house and performed a monologue as well as 16 lines from a song of their choosing. The final cast is comprised of all eighth graders and one seventh grader.
Due to scheduling and timeline constraints, using the proceeds to go to New York ended up no longer fitting the scope of the project. Instead, the two decided to make the musical a “donations appreciated” event and donate the proceeds to a local charity.
IN TOTAL, the show raised $1,400 and the proceeds went to Growing Hope, a local non-profit charity that provides “supportive, non-medical care to children with cancer and their families.” (www.growinghopekids.org/). Erin Morrissey-Lauer, a local community member, mother with a child who had cancer and board member from Growing Hope, said the children learned about the organization during Robinson Secondary School’s theater performance of “Peter Pan.”
“[A family] had just lost their son, [Garrett Weatherbee, to cancer] and his brother, [Justin] asked for permission from the drama teacher if he could get up and tell people about Growing Hope,” Lauer said. “She said yes, and the kids learned about Growing Hope from that. So, when the kids decided they wanted to make this a donation event, they thought: Growing Hope.”
Growing Hope comprises volunteers and 100 percent of the incoming funds go directly towards non-medical social and financial support for families with children who have cancer.
“We try to do fun things for the kids,” Lauer said. “When you’re in cancer treatment with a child it can be really isolating. So, we get families together which is really important.”
This event was particularly important because it demonstrated the power of community.
“[It shows] people care about, first of all arts, and what these kids are able to do,” Lauer said. “And also, just being empathetic to kids with cancer. I mean we weren’t a cancer family until our child got cancer and it can happen to anybody at any time. I just love that [the kids] are so willing to help their peers.”