A Look Into: Free to Be… You and Me

Cedar Grove High School’s production of Marlo Thomas’ “Free to Be… You and Me,” a show focusing on what kids can be rather than that what they should be, was performed Wednesday night at CGHS. Wednesday’s performance bookended previous showings to students at both South End and North End Elementary Schools and Memorial Middle School earlier in the week.

The show follows an ensemble cast of students acting as children who, from birth, learn through interactions and conversations with each other many different lessons about emotions, inclusivity, and understanding. With props, singing, and dancing, the show addresses topics such as traditional gender roles and loneliness as the children learn not only to accept themselves and each other, but that they can be anything they want to be.

As a light-hearted performance geared towards children, the show maintains an upbeat and welcoming tone throughout despite the mature topics being discussed so that children of any age can easily learn from its message. Parents were also encouraged to view the performance so that they might share an understanding of this message with their children.

Before the show began, music teacher and director of the performance Jennifer Jessen-Foose explained the idea for producing this show at CGHS and the importance of “Free to Be… You and Me’s” message for children and young students. Later, history teacher and producer Chris Cannella asked members of the cast their personal connections to the themes of the show and opened the floor to the audience though no one asked any further questions.

After the performance, the cast and audience member reconvened in the cafeteria for refreshments and as an informal place for people to discuss the show. Here, senior Alex Qassis who played a large role onstage explained his thoughts on the unique production aimed towards children.

“Children’s theater is a lot different,” Qassis admitted, “you have to exaggerate more so the kids can be excited and keep that energy up.”  When discussing the lasting effects of this performance, he explained that “it can show kids that they can be who they want to be.” He clarified, “if someone tries to bully them, they’ll know ‘I’m going to be who I want to be,’ and that alone will help kids as they grow up.”

Looking forward, Qassis closed by explaining the importance of continuing to spread the message of the show even after it has ended. “Now that the theme, the message, is out there in every school, having that — showing kids they can be themselves — it can keep spreading; and you’ll have all these open-minded and amazing, unique people in the future.”

Dylan Giacobbe