‘I can take on the persona of someone else’: What four years of high school musical theater taught my best friend
Alika Khun recently graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School, where she performed in the school’s musical theater program all four years. Looking back, she says her senior year experience was a lot different than her freshman year. RadioActive’s Kea Lani Diamond talked to Alika, and has more.
[RadioActive Youth Media is KUOW's radio journalism and audio storytelling program for young people. This story was entirely youth-produced, from the writing to the audio editing.]
’ve known Alika Khun since we were about 4 years old. She’s my next-door neighbor, my best friend, and we go to the same school. She’s like an older sister, and she inspired me to try theater my freshman year of high school.
I decided to ask her about her feelings when she started freshman year versus concluding with her senior year.
"Most definitely very different," Alika said, "because freshman year of high school, you're scared of everything and everyone. And then musical theater is the kind of class where you're told not to be scared because you have to get up to perform. Versus senior year where I kind of knew everything. I knew how the entire class was supposed to work."
I asked her what she remembered about her very first show, “The Children Of Eden.”
"It was terrifying," she said. "But I remember that, after the first show ended, there's such this feeling of euphoria. And like this weight coming off."
By her senior year, Alika was more confident. She had a solo as Maggie Holmes, the cleaning lady in the musical “Working.”
"And that one was fun," she said. "It was definitely something that I got to really take in because the character I played reminded me a lot of like my own family, and their own circumstance. Because the character talks a lot about how they sadly cannot be at home very often, and so their child is just kind of like off doing whatever, but they're still hoping for a good future with them. And I know that's the thing my mom resonated with a lot."
I asked Alika about how her high school experience was, balancing musical theater with also taking the most rigorous program at our school, Full IB, short for International Baccalaureate.
"It was very hard," she said. "Sometimes in my head, I would be sitting there thinking, 'I'm going to fail the next biology test,' but also I'm like, 'Singing! Dancing! Yay! In a way it was kind of relieving to be able to not know what the heck I'm doing in any of my classes, but go to theater and be like, 'Well, that's OK, because I'm not me here.' Because I can like take on the persona of someone else. It's just relieving that my problems in other classes aren't really present there."
Alika always has and will continue to inspire me with her perseverance in academics, performance, and in life in general. I’m really proud of her, and I’m excited to see what she does next.
This story was produced in a RadioActive Youth Media one-week Intro to Radio Storytelling workshop for high school-age youth. Production assistance by Caesar Morales and Hannah Schoettmer. Prepared for the web by Kelsey Kupferer.
Note: In the audio version of this story, the word "baccalaureate" is mispronounced.