A creepy wooded area. No one else around. And it’s 11 p.m.
A perfect scenario to inspire goosebumps.
But for Madison Beehner and Keira Ballan, who acted as fiendish excavators in The Gateway’s Halloween drive-through at Southaven Park last fall, it prompted musical inspiration.
Waiting for Gateway Acting School director and associate artistic director Michael Baker to bike down to their spot so they could follow him out at the end of the night, “We sang something like ‘Bicycle lights shining through the night, y-e-a-h,’” sang Beehner.
“We both joked we could see this on stage,” Ballan said.
That snippet of a melody developed into a two-hour musical, with a cast of 20 and 15 songs. “Pier Glass Park” was presented on the Gateway stage May 22 and 23 to family and friends with the teens taking excited bows, not only as creators, but as the two leads.
(No worries. You’ll get a chance to see them in July.)
There’s always an odyssey involved in a creation, and this story has one.
“We were both in school and I said, ‘I can’t get this out of my head,’” Ballan said of the woods tune. “Do you want to do something with it?”
Beehner, 17, of East Islip, was in her final year at Our Lady of Mercy Academy; Ballan, 16, of Bellport, was a junior at Bellport High School. They’d been friends for years, meet during their Gateway acting classes. Spare time? Not really, but they started writing the plot on Oct. 20.
The actual script began on Halloween. “We went through a long draft,” Ballan said. “We’d ask people to read it. But we had a solid plot.”
“We did have a lot of character changes,” admitted Beehner.
They were in touch daily. Boy, were they. Talk about commitment.
“We’d text each other at 3 a.m. sometimes with changes and ideas,” Ballan said.
By Thanksgiving, they had the musical in fairly good shape. But they wanted to show it to Baker.
“For our first meeting, we were counting the hours,” Ballan said. “What if he doesn’t like it?”
But he did. From there, they met regularly. “We worked on it as a class once a week and I directed it,” Baker said. “We had sound technicians and a minimal set.”
“He’d point out problems,” Beehner said.
Baker would advise them. “Maybe you could identify your options,” he told them. “Why does this song work? Can a character be more of this? But you two were always working on it,” he added admiringly. There were formal auditions and 20 Gateway Acting Class students were chosen.
The musical’s premise centers around a skating rink coach who decides to send his young skating students, embroiled in teen dramas and meanness, to a retreat at Pier Glass Park to learn why they should be nice to each other.
The plot includes a psychopath, demon children, campy characters, humor. No spoiler alert on the ending. You’ll have to come and see it.
When did they think it was ready?
“Five minutes before the second show,” said Ballan, who added a drum beat.
Baker said two pros from the LINK program The Gateway hosted this past January surprised the students and orchestrated their song, “If Only You Knew,” on their keyboard; the LINK pros loved the song.
No Gateway costumes were utilized because of COVID, so the characters wore what teens usually wear and the set was minimal.
Beehner and Ballan expressed the altruistic hope that hosting their musical at Gateway could help the acting school’s funds. Baker said directors and other theater professionals would be invited to the (to-be-announced) July date for “Pier Glass Park.”
What if a director wanted to mount their show?
They both looked at each other.
“I think we would drop dead on the spot,” said Ballan.