High school brings life to RTVF script

High school students at Fort Worth Country Day School are performing a musical written by the chair of the Radio-TV-Film department.Richard Allen wrote the play, “Return to Planet Zoloft,” in Fall 2005 when a local school asked him to write a musical. However, before he was able to finish the work, the school changed its mind.

“Return to Planet Zoloft” is a comedy about high school students putting on a musical, Allen said. The main character, Drummond, writes the musical to center around a kiss with the girl whom he has a huge crush on, Heather, Allen said.

Though the play-within-a-play plot may appear similar to the popular Disney’s “High School Musical,” “Return to Planet Zoloft” is deeper and more real than that, Allen said.

“It was really kind of fun, and I wanted to find a school to do it,” Allen said. “So, I started shopping it around.”

A friend whose daughter had just graduated from FWCDS put Allen in touch with Melodee Halbach, the director of theater at FWCDS, who agreed to have her students perform the musical at the school’s Fine Arts Festival, Allen said.

The students did a staged reading of the musical and decided they liked it, so then they held auditions, said Whitney Williamson, a high school senior who has taken theater at FWCDS since the fifth grade.

Williamson, who plays a chorus girl named Vanna, said the students have been rehearsing since January and recently every day in theater class.

“It’s not very often you get an original script that you get to put together, play with and make your own,” Williamson said.

Allen, who has won two Emmys for writing for the daytime soap opera “As The World Turns,” was the writer of the script and lyrics, though he had a partner compose the music. Charles Whitehead, who received his master’s in classical piano from TCU in 1997, wrote the score.

Allen’s work goes beyond creativity – it becomes what he teaches in the classroom, he said.

“I think that’s what makes me a different kind of teacher,” Allen said. “I put myself on the line every semester and struggle right along with my students.”

Senior RTVF major Katie Roberts said she hopes Allen’s musical will open people to the idea that musicals can be entertaining and interesting.

“It’s inspiring to see someone who’s actually succeeding in the business,” said Mandy Caulkins, a junior RTVF major who has taken classes from Allen.

Allen said he is looking forward to seeing his musical come alive.

“I love musicals,” Allen said. “They are one of my passions, always.