Ms. Pla and Theater for Social Change


Ms. Pla-Guzman

Cristina Pla-Guzman, the new Upper School Drama teacher, has a deep relationship with theater and believes that “theater is supposed to wake people up. It’s supposed to show them themselves.”

So when she was asked to direct this year’s Theater for Social Change, she saw it as a great opportunity to wake up the Country Day community to an issue she finds important and even, perhaps, to seize the moment to put her own spin on the Theater for Social Change.  This year, she introduces a musical. Yes, that’s right, a 15-minute musical. And what’s more, it’s called 21 Chump Street. Sound familiar? Don’t be fooled.  It definitely is not the movie-by-a-similar-name, starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum.

This play was the brainchild of famous Hamilton creator Lin Manuel Miranda and premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2014. The original production starred Miranda himself with a cast of student actors.

“I think this project is exciting. I also loved Lin Manuel Miranda way before Hamilton. So the fact that he has a play we can do, and one that is so accessible to a younger audience, and that the music is just so good. It means so much to me that the music is just so good.”

The plot follows Justin, an intelligent but misguided student, who falls head-over-heels in love with Naomi. But, without giving away the plot, let’s just say it’s not your classic love story. The play is powerful and explores two main issues. The most straightforward issue is that of drug dealing on a high school campus. The less obvious, yet maybe more appealing to a teenage audience, is that of the power of love and those intense feelings that can lead people into doing things they wouldn’t normally do.  

Ms. Pla found it an ideal play for MCDS for a number of reasons. One was its length. She realized teenagers don’t have the greatest attention spans and wanted to select a play that was short, but packed with crucial messages that pertain to today’s youth.

Another reason, she says, is that “you can relate to the characters. They’re teenage characters that are going through these types of things, in a way that actual conversation can start, based off of it. It’s something I’m pumped to be a part of and excited to work on.”

As with all TSC performances, students will have a chance to discuss the topics and issues like “peer pressure” and “speaking up” that  are presented in the play.

Pla’s passion for this project is evident and she isn’t shy about vocalizing that. I have listened to the playlist of this musical, and can say that there are a great deal of catchy and expressive tunes that will easily have you dancing in your seat. 21 Chump Street premieres January 31st  at 7 P.M. as part of AN Evening of Theater at the Center for the Arts. Admission is free. Make sure to attend and you surely won’t regret it!