Westview High School sophomore Abigail Figueroa has loved the Disney movie “Frozen” since it came out when she was five years old. She said she’s seen it countless times in the 10 years since.
“I love the fact that for once it’s not like a princess needs to be saved by a guy,” Figueroa said. “She is the one that goes and solves her problems. And it’s centered around this bond between two sisters.”
Last summer Figueroa stumbled across an essay contest to win the rights to put on “Frozen: The Broadway Musical” at her high school. The contest theme was “Love is an Open Door.”
Figueroa said Westview’s student population exemplifies that theme, “We’re a public high school open to and accepting of all who make up our student body of 2,525 students, 61% of which are BIPOC, many of whom identify as LGBTQIA+, with 52 home languages.”
Figueroa also wrote in her application that the production would reflect Westview’s “Wildcat Way” motto: “We welcome all; we resist hate; we practice kindness; we celebrate differences.”
Disney awarded the rights to perform the musical to just one high school per state. Figueroa found out she’d won the spot for Oregon right before the start of the school year.
“I had been refreshing my email for days,’” she said. “And one day it was there! And I remember running upstairs to tell my mom. I was so excited about it.”
However, the school had already chosen the plays that would be staged this year, said Justin Hauke, the school’s drama teacher. So it took passionate advocacy from Figueroa — and more than one conversation with the school administration — for everyone to agree that staging the show would be a fantastic opportunity.
Hauke said he was already planning to do lots of outreach to bring a more diverse range of students into the drama department, and recruiting for “Frozen” ended up being a great fit for that goal.
“We put up posters around the school,” Hauke said. “We made sure that we are on the announcements, making sure that students of all backgrounds felt like this was a safe place for them to come audition and that we wanted them, and we’re going to embrace them.”
He said between the cast, crew, orchestra and choir there are about 120 students involved. He’s double-cast the show’s lead parts to give more students more experience. Both of the Anna roles are played by BIPOC students.
“Generally speaking, students don’t want to go see a show that they don’t know,” Hauke said. “But students know ‘Frozen,’ and they can get behind it. It was a strong thing, just like it was for Abigail. It was a part of their childhood.”
And Hauke said the target audience for his show is elementary school students: ”We want them walking away seeing the love that is put on stage. And hopefully, they see themselves represented on stage and want to join theater and feel like they have a place that they belong already at the high school.”
The sold-out staged version of “Frozen” runs through March 11 at Westview High School in Beaverton.