SAMD cast rehearses for Urinetown / Credit: Needham Observer

Needham High thespians are taking their passion and turning it into purpose. After school, the auditorium is abuzz with song and dance as rehearsals for the upcoming performance of “Urinetown: The Musical” are well underway. Unlike other shows, however, these rehearsals include community service and a desire to support those in need. 

Each fall Students Acting to Make a Difference (SAMD) stages a show, with the proceeds going to a local nonprofit. For the second year in a row, the student-led board of directors chose Circle of Hope, a Needham-based nonprofit that provides clothing and necessities to homeless infants, children and adults, as the recipient. This year, the cast and crew also participated in a day of service for the organization, assembling dignity bags.

“Our motto is ‘Use your passion for good,’” said Boyoung Paik, SAMD president. “We recently made the switch to supporting a local nonprofit and being more hands on. It’s still very new, and the board hopes to increase cast involvement in the coming years.”

Students prepare for upcoming Urinetown performance Credit: Needham Observer

SAMD was started more than a decade ago by a Needham teacher. The board, however, is only 10 years old. Made up of nine students representing the various grades, the board selects the play and the nonprofit, and hires the director and musical director from a pool of applicants. This year, their choice of “Urinetown” is a bit “off script.” 

The story is set in a post-drought period where private toilets have been outlawed and public pay-per-use toilets are mandated to regulate water consumption. Through musical theater and satire, the play explores corruption and mismanagement in the legal system, capitalism, corporations, bureaucracy and politics, as well as the idea of social responsibility. 

“Most of the past shows at the high school have been super happy,” said Paik. “We thought, ‘Let’s explore a different genre like satire that’s more dark and funny.’” She said the show is very timely and relatable as the world continues to come out of the COVID pandemic. “The devastation and the loss and the general sense of hopelessness that came out of that time is definitely something people can relate to,” she said. “Also, the message of social justice and kind of fighting and using your voice for what you think is right, because a lot of young people these days have been using their voices a lot more to make a change.”

SAMD not only does good for the larger community, it also has a firm no-cut policy and promotes a welcoming and inclusive space for all those interested in participating. “Urinetown” has a cast and crew of 61 students. There will also be student instrumentalists accompanying the show led by musical director Spencer Parrish, NHS music teacher and band director. 

With less than two weeks to go, Paik said she is excited for the upcoming tech week. “You’re just around your cast the whole time and working together to put the final pieces of the show to create a production. It’s all just super supportive.” 

Performances of “Urinetown” will be at the Newman Elementary School Auditorium Oct. 27, 28 and 29. Tickets may be purchased online. 

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