Leah Brieva, Molly Chambers, Ben Coleman, Luke Eovaldi, Bryn Favakeh, Isabella Greco, Nina Harders, Caleb Hart, Monica Hill, Teagan Hueneke, Nell Jones, Izzy Kohn, Maya Mahoney, Celeste Master, Ella McGinley, Sophie Monzo, Ryan Nacey, Ryann Oakley, Noah Rosenberg and Cassie Tingley in the Haven Help Us! skit “Talk Spanish to Me.”Photo from Haven Help Us

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On Nov. 20, 1980, the original production of Haven Help Us! showcased 109 seventh and eight graders in 25 numbers with piano accompaniment. It was a dream-come true of three Haven moms: Chie Curley, Pamela Kihm and Cindi Schuneman. The previous spring they had approached Haven’s principal, Lorraine Morton, with a proposal for a musical variety show. In those days, there were far fewer dramatic outlets for Evanston students; most had to wait until high school to step onto a stage, and the three moms wanted to provide middle school students with a chance to sing, dance and act in a real production. There would be “no cuts.” Any student who wanted to participate would have a role. Ms. Morton gave the greenlight for the show with three conditions. First, the show would have to be staged before Thanksgiving. Second, Ms. Morton wanted to perform, too, along with other Haven faculty. And finally, the Haven faculty number would be rehearsed in secret – the first time anyone would see the teachers perform would be on the night of the show.

Since the first Haven Help Us! 35 years ago, the program has thrived under the support of eight principals. The show has run continuously, save for two dark years in the mid-nineties. This year’s production, which premieres March 5, is titled “HHUTube.”

Planning for this year’s show began last March with numerous parents on board to write lyrics, direct numbers and pitch in whenever needed. Current show subjects reflect current life, with numbers like, “Polar Vortex” (a parody to “Pompeii“ by Bastille); and “Oh, Insta!” (a parody to “Break Free” by Ariana Grande) about Instagram, written by eighth grader Lexi Larson.  An overwhelming number of submissions focused on the pressure to obtain all As. Many ideas came from students who participated in the Writers’ Workshop held last fall, including “Flannel Fridays” about the unofficial dress code for Fridays at Haven; and “Our TV Screen an ode to Netflix by seventh-grader Mia Pitcock.

This year, HHU! hired Foster Dance Studios to choreograph and run dance rehearsals with Daniel Williams, a HHU! alum, and Northwestern University junior Savannah Couch to aid directors, and to choreograph some of the numbers.

Many Evanston Township High School students who are HHU! alums directed numbers, edited videos, wrote parodies and assisted with crew for this year’s production: Katherine Bald, Matt Chappelle, Kiley Leff, Tor Shepherd, Noa Solomon, Gayle Stamos, Kathryn Gruner, Lily Jones, Caroline Moore and Nolan Robinson.

This year boasts more than 100 parent volunteers, 10 high school volunteers and 240 cast and crew. Though the songs and styles change from one decade to the next, every production of Haven Help Us! celebrates creativity and community.