Last year, I was commissioned by the San Francisco Unified School District to create a musical that would teach fifth graders who were transitioning to middle school how to get to school safely on their own. I took on the gig for practical reasons: 1) After living in the world of The Four Immigrants, it would be a nice change to write some contemporary pop music, 2) I wanted to gain more experience creating my own accompaniment tracks in Logic, and 3) It was a writing gig that paid well! It wasn't going to be a passion project, but something that I could grow and learn from at least.
However, as I started to write the show - now titled Step Up Crew, it hit me that the topic of "traffic safety," as boring and bureaucratic as it sounds, is actually a very worthwhile cause to write a musical. In thinking back to school assemblies I watched while growing up, I realized that I have retained some of the knowledge gained from those presentations. "Evaporation, Condensation, Precipitation!" and how the nervous system transmits a signal from your hand touching a hot stove to your brain and back again. I now look back and see that those creative, interactive, and musical assemblies were probably made by someone like me. A playwright or artist who followed educational guidelines to create a theatre piece, never actually knowing the impact they were having on kids' lives.
Step Up Crew is not going to move people to tears or make them re-examine their preconceived notions about existence. It might, however, remind kids how to stay safe while getting to school. Perhaps a child will remember bus etiquette and become a better citizen for it. Perhaps a child will remember how to cross the street safely and won't get hurt. I don't want to over-dramatize the impact the show could have, but thinking about Step Up Crew in this way brings a little more heart and a little more meaning to the project than before.