For her directorial debut, Hanna Clinton wanted a show that had meaning and impact. She looked at several shows, but when the rights were released for The Prom, she knew it was the perfect fit – for the message and its timing.
“I originally saw the show on Broadway. What stuck out to me was having representation for queer youth as well as the story being told,” says Clinton, who is directing and choreographing The Prom for Jewish Family Theater Weinstein JCC. “I think this show is relatable to all people, not just kids.”
The Prom follows four Broadway actors who are having an identity crises and realize that people find them unlikeable. They hear about a queer youth in Indiana who isn’t allowed to attend her prom because she is gay. The actors make a trip to Indiana in an attempt to raise the queer teen’s social status so she can enjoy her prom as her true self. Because their plan is not well thought out, chaos ensues. The adults learn that correcting the situation is not as easy as they once thought it would be.
Inspired by a Real Prom and Real Queer Kids
The 2016 Broadway show was inspired by an actual incident in 2010 at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi. Senior Constance McMillen planned to bring her girlfriend to the prom and wear a tuxedo. She was banned from doing so. The incident garnered media attention and several celebrities turned to social media to show their support and sponsor what was called a “second chance” prom.
The musical was also produced on Netflix in 2020 with Ryan Murphy directing the show, which starred Meryl Streep and James Corden.
When the JCC’s show was announced, Clinton got feedback from people that resonated with the material. “They are extremely excited about us doing the show,” she says.
Show at JCC for Jewish Family Theatre is a Family Affair
The Prom is a mother/daughter collaboration with Clinton’s mom, Debra, stepping into the role of the show’s producer. Elle Meerovich is serving as musical director.
“I have been watching Debra direct for two decades,” say Clinton. “I didn’t know if I wanted to pursue directing, but it was the next step for me.”
Clinton and her mom have been working together since Clinton’s childhood. “It started with me in a performance role and her as director,” Clinton says. “We work well as a team. I know her artistic taste very well, and she knows me as an individual. She has given me a lot of freedom on this project.”
Clinton has learned a lot from her mom Debra over the years, she adds. “She taught me how to get things done in an efficient and timely manner, and I’ve learned how to work with and manage people.”
Timely and Important Topic for the Stage
Because the Weinstein JCC brings in a wide array of people, Clinton is hoping the musical will resonate with everyone who sees it.
“At the end of the day the subject is universal – people need to be seen, be heard, have the freedom to express themselves, and to be themselves. That is the message of the show to me,” she says. “Take the political aspects out of the equation and treat the characters and story as if they are just people who have the same problems as a lot of people we know.”
This type of story, she adds, has the opportunity “to unite people in the way they think abut this topic.”
A Jewish Family Theatre production at the Weinstein JCC, the show runs May 30 and 31 and June 1, 4, 5, 8, and 11. For tickets and showtimes, visit the JCC.