This year marks the 30th Anniversary of Haven Help Us! On November 20,1980, the original production of Haven Help Us! showcased one hundred and nine 7th and 8th graders in 25 numbers with piano accompaniment. HHU was the dream of three Haven moms: Cindi Schuneman, Chie Curley and Pamela Kihm. In the spring of 1980, they approached Mayor Morton, then Haven Middle School’s Principal Morton, with a proposal for a musical variety show. At the time, until students reached high school, there was not the plethora of dramatic outlets now available. The moms wanted to provide middle school students a chance to sing, dance and act on stage. There would be “no-cuts”. Any student who desired to participate would have a role. Ms. Morton gave the green light for the show with three conditions. First, the show would have to be staged before Thanksgiving. Second, Ms. Morton wanted herself as well as the faculty to perform in the show. Last, the Haven faculty number would be rehearsed in secret- the first time anyone outside of Ms. Morton and the faculty who would see their number would be on the night of the performance.
Over the summer, the set was built. The set design of simple silhouettes of kids was the vision of Judy Anderson. The philosophy behind the set design and costuming was minimalism. Everything was orchestrated to allow the kids to shine on stage. In addition to the set, parents wrote the bulk of the show. Most of the inspiration came from middle school life and involved parodies using Broadway show tunes. The show was a work in progress, some of the show was written after tryouts to capitalize on kids’ talents. Students were also involved in writing for the show as part of the 7th grade project, Exploration. The song chosen was The Hallelujah Chorus.
According to Pamela Kihm, as the curtain rose on the premier production of Haven Help Us!, “you couldn’t hear a pin drop in the house, because everyone involved couldn’t believe how great the show was and what the kids were capable of achieving”. And what about The Hallelujah Chorus and the faculty numbers? Although difficult to direct, the kids rose to the occasion and the number was a show stopper! Principally Speaking (the surprise 26th number) showcased twenty-two Haven faculty members and featured Mayor Morton. The number commenced with the audience only seeing a foot in front of the curtain, then a leg sporting opera stockings both belonging to Mayor Morton. Another show stopper! The applause was “thunderous”.
Kelly Post, a District 65 teacher, is an original cast member and is directing two numbers in the show.
This year’s performances are on Friday and Saturday, March 19 and 20 at 7:00 pm at Haven Middle School, 2417 Prairie Avenue, Evanston, IL.