Contra Theatre Company: The Future of Student Lead Theatre at MHS

Lucy Kegley

Lucy Kegley

Karen Rose, Staff Writer

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This summer, the play Spring Awakening took to the stage at the JSB Tek Box in Minneapolis. The show follows a group of teenagers in 19th century Germany who deal with numerous tragedies such as failure in school, abuse, suicide, and rape, all while trying to live up to the rigid expectations of society. These are some tough topics, but that’s precisely why the student-run Contra Theatre Company chose to perform it.

“’Contra’ is actually a Latin prefix that translates to ‘against,’” said Antonio De La Vega, ‘19, a student here at Minnetonka who started the company. He explained, “we seek to perform shows that go against the expectations of students, and challenge audiences of any age to see how theatre art can change the world.”

De La Vega was inspired to start his own company when he worked with a student-run production at Southwest High School. The idea was stuck in his mind afterward until he was able to bring Contra to fruition through fundraisers, donations, and ticket sales. Not surprisingly, starting one’s own company does not come without its challenges.

“Most of the big tasks I had to accomplish on my own,” he explained. “Renting the Tek Box and getting the rights for a production were the biggest obstacles to overcome in the pre-production process, as they both require a great deal of money.”

Something that makes Contra unique is that it is a student-run company: it allows students to perform shows that they might not be allowed to in their school theatre. There are many reasons a show could be deemed inappropriate for high school theatre, one being that some plays contain themes that parents view as too intense, especially in a theatre where people bring their children.

“The opportunity to perform a role that is normally considered to be ‘too old’ for high schoolers excites student artists,” De La Vega explains. “Additionally, I have found that student-run theatre companies create friendships between directors and actors that are not common in many high school theatres.”

After each production of Spring Awakening, all filled with dazzling choreography and breathtaking performances, audiences continue to be surprised that students produced the show.

De La Vega recounted, “people always wondered what adults helped with making the show […] I was proud to say that the students are completely responsible.”

The play has touched many audiences with its poignancy that packs a punch since it first debuted in 2006.

“I feel that the show does a beautiful job of raising awareness about the impact of suicide in a community and how the stories of those who leave us too early are never truly gone,” he remarked. Lucy Kegley

Although another show is currently in planning for this summer, the inevitable remains: Contra is a student-run company, and students eventually will graduate. So, what is the future of Contra Theatre Company?

“After the original team leaves for college, Contra will be left as a legacy company for any junior/senior theatre artists who have the drive and passion to operate the company,” De La Vega said. “I am excited to see what happens with Contra after I depart from the company, and even more excited to see who continues its legacy.”

“Contra was started with the intention of being a platform for student artists to create theatre art that went beyond just performance, and actually perform theatre that expresses socially relevant stories and themes,” he said.

He is confident that his company will continue to do just that.

 

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