Random Acts of Talent provides a chance for everyone to step outside their comfort zone


An inside joke taken to the extremes landed the eight-person “JV vs Varsity Dance Team” act a spot at the Random Acts of Talent (RAT) auditions. Not even a sprained ankle from the day before and a smashed nose from minutes earlier could stop the group from auditioning.

“We had to perform with two members down for auditions, so we did not think we were going to make it,” said senior Rielly Nehls, who is part of the varsity dance team. “I think the only thing that made [Robbin] Demeester put us in the show was that [senior] Alyssa [Zadel] was sitting there next to her crying her eyes out. I don’t think she would have understood what was going on if Alyssa hadn’t been sitting next to her explaining it.”

Two years ago, at a homecoming dance after-party, the inside joke of “JV Dance” was born. The girls — nondancers and now seniors — gathered in the basement dance studio to dance and goof around, even trying on costumes. From there, the joke grew until they were dancing in hallways and other random places.

But, “JV Dance” also serves another purpose.

“[Senior] Maddie [Musgraves], Alyssa, [senior] Lindsey [Lunt], and I are all super close friends,” Rielly said. “When we hang out with our other friends, we tend to talk about dance team sometimes. [Then] they make up stuff about their ‘JV dance team’ so they can feel included or have something to talk about too.”

This year, the eight members of the act all had lunch together. It began as a playlist of all of the songs “JV dance” has danced to, and it turned into a dance battle and a comedy skit all rolled in one. Nobody can even remember whose idea it was to do the show.

“Before we went on, I was like, ‘This is a joke that was taken way too far,’” Rielly said. “[We thought] we over-exaggerated [it] way too much, [that] we should not be doing [it], and [that] no one’s going to think it’s funny. But I think people thought it was funny, so it ended up okay.”

After hours of practice before and after their slightly traumatic audition, the already-close group became even closer. One hour practices would turn into three hours because the group would get distracted and mess around. They had to spend time cleaning up their act and pulling it together into something cohesive.

Even with all the time spent creating and perfecting the act, it didn’t prevent any last minute doubts.

“We were all thinking, ‘This is a bad idea we shouldn’t do this,’” Maddie said. “But then as the day went on, we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re so glad that we did this.’ This [was] so fun because we were together all day, and then we all got to perform on stage together, which like half of us have never done that.”

The doubt and stage fright weren’t just coming from the ‘JV’ members. Something like this was a huge change from what the varsity dance girls normally do.

“I feel like previously I would have been too nervous,” Maddie said. “But [then] I [was] like, ‘You know what? I’m leaving anyways.’ It was a nice kind of send-off [for] senior year. It was our last year, so we were just like, ‘We’re going to do what we want, who cares if people think are funny or not.’”

Stepping outside their comfort zone for the show was a common theme for, but not limited to, most participants. Junior and the assistant student director of the FHC theater program Sarah Buchanan had to step up to the task.

For this show, Sarah was the head student director and stage manager. That means it was up to her to call the shots. It was her job to fix problems in the show and backstage, cue acts and lights, and direct the movement of props.

Last year, Sarah joined the backstage crew for the first time. Now as assistant student director, she is set to be head next year. That comes with many responsibilities, which Sarah got a taste for during this show.

“At first I was really nervous, mostly because it was something I had never done before,” Sarah said. “Just a year ago, the RAT show was my first experience ever even being backstage, and now I was running everything. As we ran through the show during the day [of] a couple of times for dress rehearsal, my job became more familiar to me. So, when it came time for the show, I was more prepared and comfortable.”

With no one to turn to with questions, Sarah had to work it out for herself. It was up to her to make sure the show didn’t fly off the rails. While it was a lot of work and stressful, Sarah ultimately benefited from the challenge.

“It definitely helped me grow,” Sarah said. “I was in charge of so many people and responsible for a lot of tasks, and I had never had that much relying on me before. After the show ran smoothly, it helped me become more confident [in] running things for the play and musical next year.”

However, this RAT show was different from previous years. For the first time in around eight years, the show was hosted by a student. Senior Vaughn Rodriguez had the honor of filling that place.

Vaughn was originally introduced to the stage through the fall play Ramona Quimby this year. While he wishes that he had started theater freshmen year, he is glad that he took a chance and auditioned. It may even be part of the reason Vaughn was offered the job of host.

“If I wouldn’t have come out and done this year’s first theater production, then this wouldn’t have happened,” Vaughn said. “If I wouldn’t have taken that risk initially to do something I’d never done before then no, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity. But, I think [Deemester] saw that I wanted to take risks, and I wanted to try new things.”

It also helped that many people had glowing praise for him.

“He’s super charismatic, and I think the audience loved him as the host,” Sarah said. “He’s so confident and good onstage.”

As host, Vaughn wrote his own lines, transitions, and introductions for the acts. Vaughn said one of the hardest things about being the host was setting aside time to sit down and work out what he would say when get got out there. As with most things, not everything went according to the plan. He had to do a fair amount of improvising,

But he wasn’t alone. He had guidance from chemistry teachers Russel Chudy and John Anderson. Together, they kept the audience engaged and created funny skits. The three also worked with senior Will Cammell, who does a lot of work for FX, to shoot goofy videos for the show.

“We completely trashed this bit to start the second act,” Vaughn said. “I had none of it written down. We were talking through it [before it began]. Then I got out there, and I completely forgot everything that I had to talk about. I was going off on a rant almost because I had no idea what I was trying to say, and then I remembered. It clicked.”

While it brought the three hosts together, Vaughn also noticed how it had the same effect on the school. Everyone in RAT collectively stepping out of their comfort zone helped bring a greater sense of unity to the school.

“I think it’s really important for people to see it or even just be a part of it in any way, whether you’re the audience or the performer because high school is stressful,” Vaughn said. “I think that’s important to go somewhere where you can see somebody up on stage singing a song or on stage dancing or acting silly– just getting out of their comfort zone. I think as a class and as a school; I think it helps unite people.”