In the new musical “Coed P.E. ... and Other Bad Ideas,” sixth-graders – played by Grace College & Seminary students – at St. Agatha’s Middle School have to learn to get along with the opposite sex in gym class. Patrick (Marc Baldwin, L) and Karen (Liz Brown, R) are two of the students who discover it might not be as bad as they thought. Photo by David Slone.
In the new musical “Coed P.E. ... and Other Bad Ideas,” sixth-graders – played by Grace College & Seminary students – at St. Agatha’s Middle School have to learn to get along with the opposite sex in gym class. Patrick (Marc Baldwin, L) and Karen (Liz Brown, R) are two of the students who discover it might not be as bad as they thought. Photo by David Slone.
WINONA LAKE – Anastasia Canfield, a Grace College senior, wrote a musical over the last year with some help from her brother, Josh Canfield, a Broadway actor.
Over the next two weekends, the public will be able to see the world premiere of their original show – “Coed P.E. ... and Other Bad Ideas” – on the Grace College campus.
“I wrote the script and the lyrics, and then I had my brother, Josh Canfield, who he is an actor on Broadway, he’s in the show ‘Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,’ he helped do the music. He helped sort of put the lyrics and make them work and kind of make them really catchy. Annoyingly catchy actually so they get stuck in your head,” she said.
She started working on it about a year ago in a writing class. Grace Professor Mike Yocum heard she was writing a show and told her to “finish the show and we’ll put it on. I was not expecting that to happen so I was like, ‘Oh this is a real thing. I actually have to make this really good.’ So I started working on it for about a year, and then I asked my brother to help me with the music and sort of help me edit it a little bit. I just finished it when we were doing auditions, and we’ve still been kind of tweaking it, but we’re opening this weekend. I think it’s done,” she said.
Yocum said, “I said, ‘If you write it, we need to do it.’ We’re a school. If students are being creative, we need to help that creativity keep growing, so that’s why we decided to do it.”
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; and 7:30 p.m. May 4-6 in the Little Theatre in Philathea Hall on the Grace College campus.
Tickets are $5 for students and seniors and $7 for adults. Tickets can be purchased at Jazzman’s using cash, credit or FLEX; at the Wagon Wheel Theatre box office, by calling 574-267-8041 or online at wagonwheelcenter.org; or with cash at the door.
Canfield said the show takes place in a Catholic middle school.
“There’s a boys school and a girls school. They have to rent out the girls gym, so they have to start doing coed P.E. for the first time ever,” she said. “The sixth-grade class of girls, the sixth-grade class of boys – they have to do coed P.E., and it kind of sends them all into a crazy madness because it’s the worst thing that could possibly ever happen, and they get really overdramatic about it.”
The main characters turn to their history books for help. They get advice from Puritans, Revolutionary War heroes and others, but it’s all really terrible advice, causing the students even more turmoil.
Having Grace College students play the adults and kids is a fun aspect of the show, she said, because everyone gets to be goofy.
An English major with a minor in creative writing, Canfield said she hadn’t written any shows before so it was a new experience for her. Writing and incorporating music that carried the story that didn’t seem random proved difficult but fun for her.
“I got to research a lot of musicals and learn how the writing process works, and kind of create something I’ve never created before. So, I loved it. And having the pressure of knowing that I had to put it on and people were actually going to see it really soon made me strive for excellence in a way that sometimes I probably don’t as much,” she said.
Since the show is in different eras of history, the genre of the music in “Coed P.E.” varies to reflect the different time periods. There’s a Puritan song that is a fun hymn, modern day pop songs and a Beach Boys kind of song to reflect the 1960s. “Each song represents the time period we’re in for that scene,” she said. The songs aren’t overly complicated because the show is about young kids and their view of the world.
As for a theme for the musical, she said a simple one would be the “battle of the sexes.” But, there’s also themes about friendship, realizing that hanging out with the opposite sex can be OK, being cautious about not repeating history, and not being overly concerned about the past and living in the present.
The two main characters in the show are Patrick and Karen, played by Marc Baldwin and Liz Brown.
“They are the two in their groups that don’t think this is terrible, but their friends convince them it is going to be really bad to have coed P.E. And each actor who is playing a kid also plays a historical character,” said Canfield, who plays Principal Johnston.
Other Grace students in the show include Grace Smith, Marcos Navarro, Deborah Michalski, Samantha Roller, Elizabeth Mattia, Bekah Landfair, Bekah Zvers, Lucas Cone, Peter Hoover, Quinton Snyder, Ryan Cameron, Andrew Bryan and Joshua Warner.
Yocum is directing the show, with Canfield assisting.
“It’s been really awesome to work with him and learn from him how he takes a story on paper and really puts it on stage in a way that makes it communicate easily to the audience,” Canfield said.
Yocum said after seeing it for the first time, “I thought it was very clever. It needed some molding. Between the two of us, we’ve really taken a nice piece of work and made it better – fixing, alternating, throwing in and throwing out as we needed to.”
She hasn’t thought about what she will do with the musical after it debuts at Grace.
“I haven’t thought about that a lot. I would be up to put it up somewhere else. I don’t know that I’ll pursue that, but I definitely think now I feel equipped to write more plays and musicals. At the very least, this has been a great learning curve for me – growing in this type of visual writing. If it goes somewhere, great, but if not, I really think doing it here at college and having my peers in it has been just the best. The best thing I could hope for,” she said.