Saturday, March 21, 2009

The School for Creative and Performing Arts & Cincinnati’s New “Fame”


This is actually Written by Justin!!

Posted by Justin Jeffre

Photo courtesy of here.

MTV’s new reality show Taking the Stage is set to be a huge hit for the network and an absolute smash for the school and our city. While it’s true that I might be a tiny bit biased, I’ve heard from reliable sources that MTV is more excited about this show than anything they’ve done in years. The crew is confident that the innovative style that the show was filmed in will be copied by many shows in the future. But the show’s real strength is the passion and talent of the students who are sure to be role models for their generation and those that will follow.

Like the city of Cincinnati itself, SCPA has seen many ups and downs. From serious funding problems, scandals involving teachers, students and Principals (including one that prevented earlier seasons from coming into fruition) to the recent and horrific tragedy that shocked our entire community-SCPA has certainly seen more than its fair share of tough times. But despite all the drama, as the saying goes, the show must go on. And go on it certainly will starting tonight at 10pm.

While the show hasn’t aired or seen any of its much anticipated success, there’s already talk of another season at SCPA as well as the possibility of new shows surrounding the show’s main characters. While MTV has had plenty experience with “Reality TV”, much of it has been negative. Many members of the MTV’s crew worked on Laguna Beach where sex, drugs and shopping were the focus for many of the kids. But this show promises to be different. One member of the crew said, “We haven’t filmed in any malls”.

Taking the Stage is the brainchild of famous former student and choir director Nick Lachey (who is currently promoting his new single off of his latest album). It’s kind of a take-off on the hit TV show Fame that was on when we were kids. Lachey says it was important to him that the school, the city and especially the students were portrayed in a positive light and he personally went to the school board to give assurances that his role would be to make sure that happened. He also says he made a conscious decision not to play a larger role in the show because he truly believes in the concept and that the stories of the students will make for compelling TV all by themselves.

The show’s recipe for success is that the diverse students at SCPA are focused on their talents as they experience the same growing pains that all high school students experience. The show is a bit unusual in that it’s an hour long which gives some breathing room for the performances. The response to the pilot was tremendous and I hear the series just gets better from there.

I had the opportunity to be there for the very first casting calls when MTV did its first pilot for the show and I was struck by how interesting the students were and how positive their outlook was about their school. Many of them said they felt like they could be themselves and they would be accepted where in other schools they had attended they felt out of place. “Here you can dress however you like and everybody just accepts it” said one student whose sense of fashion was a bit eccentric.

As an alumnus of the school I can still remember my first visit back in the 5th grade and the energy that bounced of off the walls in that historic building (it was Woodward High School when my Grandfather went there) and while the premiere’s dance scene in the lunch room may look just a little too rehearsed and any of the students will tell you the show “isn’t really real” (the excitement seems to have quickly faded into annoyance), the scene does capture the feel and the energy that I experienced oh so many years ago when break dancing first exploded into popular culture.

As with many of the alumni, the crew views the idea of moving the school into the new building as being kind of bittersweet. Everyone likes the idea of a state of the art facility for the students but, “The building just has so much soul. It’s an amazing back drop for the show”, said one crew member. After seeing the school lose so many quality teachers and a sharp decline in programming its hard not to believe the new building had more to do with the politics of gentrifying OTR than what was actually the best thing for the students.

But no matter what one feels about the politics surrounding the school’s upcoming move or the real fakeness of reality TV, the show is set to be a big win for the city as a whole. For a city that has suffered from some bad press nationally and a serious self-image problem, Taking the Stage could go a long way towards selling Cincinnati back to Cincinnatians and returning the Queen City to a more prestigious place on the world stage again.