From the start of freshman year through graduation senior year, the high school experience is one marked by both highs and lows — a journey of ups and downs that creates lifelong laughs as much as it does nerve-wracking headaches.
Ridgefield High School junior Caroline Malley traces those ebbs and flows in her new play, “The High School Experience: A Tragicomedy in One Act,” which will debut at the Ridgefield Playhouse at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 21.
“It’s a parody of high school in one act,” said the first-time playwright.
Malley said she used the format of Saturday Night Live as her inspiration.
“It’s an ensemble cast and the story is told through a series vignettes,” she explained. “It starts with a freshman in high school and we see this ‘dream’ of what high school should be and then it goes through the reality of what it’s actually like to be here all four years. ... The final vignette is through the lens of a senior.”
Malley said the goal of her story is to parody the tropes of teenagers and school teachers as they were popularized in the media.
“It’s really supposed to be fun,” she said. “The comedy of the high school experience is what really appealed to me.”
She is directing a cast of 10 students, most of whom are juniors. The play has one senior and one freshman.
“We’re mostly theater kids who have done the plays here at the high school,” she said. “I’ve been doing theater for my entire life.”
Malley, who plans to study drama and journalism in college, said her role model from SNL and acting was Gilda Radner.
As a writer, she credits Fran Leibovitz and Wendy Wasserstein for influencing her style.
“They both are just icons of comedy in my eyes while also being landmark champions of women whom I heavily appreciate,” she said.
Malley said she drew a lot from Leibovitz’ “Social Studies” and Wasserstein “Isn’t it Romantic” and “The Heidi Chronicles.”
“Currently, out of the 86 Pulitzer Prize winners for Playwriting only 15 are women and clearly that is something that needs to be changed,” she said. “Wasserstein certainly inspired me and I hope to do that for others some day.”
For tickets to The High School Experience, ($10), call the Playhouse at 203-438-5795 or go to ridgefieldplayhouse.org.
Proceeds will go to “Girls, Not Brides,” an international, nonprofit organization that fights the sex trafficking crisis the world is currently enduring, and child marriages.