Downey High School Drama Department Reaches New Heights

Oscar Flores, Copy Editor

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  • In the Downey Theater, Angie Chavez, 11, plays the character Nina during the musical In the Heights, where she is able to express her love for theater and her feelings when being on stage. “I don’t know how to describe the feeling (when performing),” Chavez stated. “It’s something that brings me pure happiness and I never want that feeling to stop.”

  • Playing the character Vanessa, Andrea Borrero, 12, acquired a lead role compared to the musical last year during the showing of In the Heights. “It was so different to suddenly become such a big part of the play,” Borrero said. “I didn’t think I’d get a role because I didn’t have as much experience compared to others but everyone a part of the play was able to help me.”

  • On March 21-23 in the Downey Theater, Isabella Diaz, 10, played the character Carla during the DHS Drama production of In the Heights. “Performing in front of everyone is so exciting and is a really good feeling,” Diaz stated. “Theatre and performing in general is just really fun and brings out a passion from me.”

  • Throughout the musical performance In the Heights on March 21-23 in the Downey Theater, Michael Macias, 12, plays Benny, a character that develops feelings for Nina, which affects her return to college. “The relationship between Nina and Benny definitely change,” Macias said. “They grow as a couple as he is there for her in a difficult situation in her life.”

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After their performance of Grease the previous year, the DHS drama department returned to the Downey Theatre for their production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights. The showings spanned three days, from March 21-23.


Conceived by Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes, In the Heights follows a close-knit family in the primarily hispanic area of Washington Heights as they experience turbulent changes in their community.


The play’s central focus lies in hope amidst future change, with the main cast – Nina (Angie Valenzuela, 11), Benny (Michael Macias, 12) , Usnavi (Giovanni Ferreira, 12), and Vanessa (Andrea Borrero, 12) – deciding what traditions they will take with them and which ones they will leave behind.  As graduation approaches, ensemble member and senior Kianna Maglaqui holds this theme close to her heart.


“I still have a post-show depression knowing the play is over,” Maglaqui stated. “My favorite experience/memory is that I got to work with new people and those new people have been the greatest to me; they treated me like family even though they just met me a couple of months ago.”


Compared to the first act, which is upbeat in nature and celebrates union, the second act serves as necessary contrast by celebrating family as well as individuality.  As the show progressed, each character saw growth in their perspective, with Nina and Benny accepting the natural separation that comes with the passage of time, and Vanessa and Usnavi moving on from their small community to achieve new goals.


“Paciencia y Fe (Patience and Faith)” and “Hundreds of Stories” stand out as popular songs as they elicit waves of nostalgia in listeners. Even though she was unable to attend any of the performances, Alma Rubio, 12, appreciates the soundtrack for the memories it brings back.


“Once again, I didn’t see the show but I can feel the nostalgia from it,” Rubio said. “Just like everything I’ve done in previous years, the nostalgia has been getting to me this last month.”


Now that the musical has concluded, the consensus among the student body is positive, with some students like Dana Zamora, 12, citing the diverse selection of musicals as a good thing.


“Seeing Spanish spoken during the play affected me heavily because I never thought I’d see it be spoken in a school play,” Zamora said.


In the Heights is the second musical to be funded by Dr. Mary Stauffer and to be showcased at the Downey Theatre.  For more information on the drama department, visit Mr. Nelson in A-215.