Performing with Drama Llamas feels like being in a music video, according to Jessica Gao, a senior and one of three student directors of the Mountain View High School theater club.
Managed and creatively directed by students for 13 years, Drama Llamas aims to provide a collaborative and supportive space for anyone — aspiring Tony award winners and curious newbies alike — to experience being a part of a musical production.
“Theater is such a vulnerable thing to put yourself into, especially when you’re a high school student,” Gao said. “Drama Llamas really says, ‘We’ll take you, wherever you’re at and we just want to let you explore this amazing art.’”
Drama Llamas does not take the term “student-run” lightly. The club’s upcoming production “Firebringer,” a comedy set in cavepeople times, will feature original choreography by Mountain View High student Sophia Gervais and, if space allows, a live student orchestra performing the soundtrack. All 16 students who auditioned with no major conflicts were accepted into the production.
“Everyone’s all in, and there’s so much care for the work that we’re doing and for each other,” Gao said.
While creative freedom enables students to create a musical that resonates genuinely with them, it also plants landmines of incohesion. With another enlightening simile, Gao explained that the production is made up of “a bunch of mini puzzle pieces.” For the directors fitting it all together, there’s something new to learn at every stage, she said.
Beyond organization, promotion and coaching, directors’ covert duties like community cultivation silently shape the production.
The student-only environment — with many trying theater for the first time — provides a sense of comfort to vulnerably experiment, according to Gao, who was new to theater herself when she first joined Drama Llamas.
After seeing the club’s spring musical, Gao awakened to the productive marvel of theater arts. She said she made a vow with herself that she would be in a musical before she graduated. Now she gets to be the one inspiring other newcomers.
“It’s amazing to see how much people will come out of their shells and put in their best effort,” Gao said. “I remember at the end of callbacks, I felt that same spark I did watching that musical, and I think that’s what Drama Llamas is: being able to share the magic of theater and musicals with everybody.”
A memory from the club’s recent “Firebringer” callback auditions that stuck out to director Ani Lawit was, in what is often considered a competitive circumstance, auditioning students instead united to help each other prepare. On the other side of somewhat chaotic auditions, a natural rapport arose.
“It’s kind of incredible, the fact that we had callbacks and we only spent a couple hours together — and at the end, it felt like we’ve already known each other,” director Eva Spaid said.
All of the lowerclassmen faces give solace to the directors and seniors in knowing that, after their graduation, the club legacy has dependable inheritors.
Lawit said she now loves being a leader in forming it for Drama Llamas. The club’s alchemizing enthusiasm for theatrical production makes the work not feel like work, according to Spaid, even when it involves marathon planning calls with her fellow directors.
“We are a power team,” Gao said.
Recently, the power team closed the chapter of laying groundwork for “Firebringer” and are now ready to begin rehearsals.
“I’m looking forward to the beginning process, where they’re just learning the lines and getting a feel for the show and we can do more one-on-one work with people, but then I’m also looking forward to stepping back and seeing what we’ve created as a whole,” Lawit said.
With this potentially Croods-inspired musical, viewers should look out for music that gets stuck in your head, a big plot twist and possible chorus cameos from the triumvirate, themselves.
Visit Drama Llamas on Instagram @mvhsdramallamas. “Firebringer” will premiere at Mountain View High School on April 29, 2022.