HMTC presents Complaints the musical

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Delfie Bauer and Athena Rem

“Why are Dr. Kelly’s emails so long?” and “Turns out my crush is mask fishing” are just two of the many complaints students will belt out to the tune of popular musical theater songs in the second installment of “Complaints the Musical.” To celebrate the culmination of the school year, The Horace Mann Theatre Company (HMTC) will premiere the full production at the end of May. 

Complaints has been a tradition at the school for over a decade. In previous years, the chorus prepared and sang one song of complaints, HMTC co-president Bailey Hecht (11) said. “Last year, the HMTC took over Complaints and turned it from a single song into a full-length mini-musical.” 

The musical parody will be performed and digitally broadcasted by HMTC. Complaints reflects the voice of the school, HMTC member Mathew Aponte (12) said. “It gives the community a chance to talk about the things we want in a fun and engaging way.”

On January 10, HMTC sent a Google Form to the school community, inviting them to take advantage of the “annual opportunity to complain about anything and everything,” the form read. 

HMTC is currently reading through all the submissions, Hecht said. “We intend to include every single one.”

“There is one submission that just says “AAAH” in all caps,” HMTC member Athena Spencer (11) said. “It really encompasses the spirit of Complaints.”

So far, student submissions have been light-hearted, focusing primarily on the school’s food and students’ workloads, Spencer said. “There is a strong divide between people who love and hate chicken tender Tuesdays,” she said. “I’m glad that out of the 116 complaints most, at worse, were just about chicken tenders.” 

In addition to including complaints about school life, Complaints will lament on students’ experiences with another year in a pandemic. Many people complained about new COVID protocols that prohibit students from eating in Lutnick Hall, Spencer said. 

Faculty members have also joined in, submitting their personal gripes with students, Hecht said. HMTC received a lot of complaints from teachers about students and vice versa, she said. “I don’t think we have had that in past years.” 

After collecting the submissions, HMTC will divide the complaints into categories such as food, workload, sleep, and relationships so that they can be easily integrated into show tune songs with similar themes, Hecht said. “Last year, I was in a section about love complaints which was set to ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ from the musical Evita.” 

This year, Hecht, HMTC publicity officer AJ Walker (12), and HMTC outreach director Mathew Peeler (12) are in charge of writing the musical. Their work will begin once submissions are closed in a few weeks, Hecht said. 

Once the writing process is complete, HMTC will begin directing and shooting scenes. Complaints is a digital musical, Spencer said. Thus, it is fun to have the opportunity to utilize multiple shots and test edit effects students would not be able to use on stage, she said. 

Although run by HMTC, the whole school is welcome to participate in Complaints, Hecht said. “[Soon], we will send out an email asking for anyone who wants to direct, act, record, or have any role in the production.”

Complaints offers students the ability to expand their experience in theater. Since Complaints is student-run, students can test out new roles that faculty members would have previously been in charge of, Hecht said. During last year’s production, Hecht only participated as an actor. This year, however, she is looking forward to trying out new roles including songwriting and directing, she said.

Students active in theater are excited to begin this year’s production, Spencer said. “Complaints is one of my favorite shows to do because it is student-run, so there’s not much teacher involvement.” Students are in charge of all of the writing, performing, and editing which encourages collaboration with friends and peers, she said. 

In addition to being enjoyable for members of HMTC, Hecht hopes Complaints will serve as an opportunity for students who have not previously participated in theater to become involved in the activity, she said. Complaints has the lowest time commitment out of all our theater productions, she said. “It’s a really great opportunity for people to branch out.” 

For seniors, it is their last year they can perform Complaints, Aponte said. Some seniors, including Aponte, have participated in Complaints since middle school, he said. “It has been bittersweet to see how over the years Complaints has changed into this big extravagant thing with a ton of different songs and time put into it.”

Overall, Complaints is a way for the community to come together and laugh at their problems from the school year, Spencer said. “It’s Horace Mann; we are all stressed out all the time.” Turning complaints into a song is a good way to turn things that upset you into something creative and fun, she said. 

HMTC cannot wait to get started on the project and see the end result. “I am excited to watch the final product and laugh at all the funny things everyone comes up with,” Aponte said.