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'Into the Woods' Teaches Community About Integrity and Responsibility Through Performing Arts

Over the course of three magical, song-filled days in November, Jakarta Intercultural School’s (JIS) Creative and Performing Arts department took the JIS community on an exhilarating adventure deep Into the Woods.

The globally loved Stephen Sondheim musical was brought vibrantly to life at the Cilandak campus Fine Arts Theater (FAT) by a dedicated cast and crew of JIS High School students. At the helm as Director and guiding them through nearly three months of rehearsals was High School Creative Arts Teacher Erica Cali, supported by Music Teacher Yandi Yang as Conductor, and Creative Arts Teachers John Davey-Hatcher and Michael Cali as Music Director and Choreographer, respectively.

Into the Woods musical casts are on the stage

Tickets for each show were sold out as JIS Dragons enthusiastically came out in full support of the first High School musical to be held in the FAT in over two years. The overall mood was celebratory and — to use Ms. Cali’s description of the story of Into the Woods — “poignant and powerful” as the JIS community came together.

Ms. Cali explains that she chose the musical because of its enduring messages of integrity and taking responsibility for our choices and actions. Sondheim's shows are known for their complex themes that delve into overlapping social issues, but she knew that Into the Woods would be especially difficult for a number of reasons.

“Into the Woods is not light, bright, easy-breezy, or an easy one to tackle; it’s a challenge for the most seasoned professionals. The music, the lyrics, and the book are all difficult, dense, and dark at times — but [they are] also so very beautiful and rich,” Ms. Cali says. “There are so many powerful messages in this show, but from our very first rehearsal, our discussions about this show centered on both integrity and responsibility as we began to examine what happens after ‘happily ever after’; after our wishes are granted and we are faced with the often difficult decision of taking responsibility for our choices and actions.”

The cast and crew not only persevered through these challenges, they learned a little bit more about themselves, their capacity as performers and artists, and “the world and our roles in it”.

JIS performing arts staff put on the crown to the main lead character on Into the Woods musical
A JIS student play violin as a part of the orchestra Into the Woods

“The learning curve on this production was pretty steep for all of us involved.  From our talented musicians in the pit to our cow puppeteers, the learning was vast and deep [...] As we enter our own ‘woods’, it can at times be scary and disappointing while still magical, all the while, challenging us to learn and grow.”

The characters pose on the stage in Into the Woods musical

The result of their learning, growth, and hard work was a dazzling stage production that had audiences laughing, gasping, and tapping their toes to the music. And as they walked out of the FAT doors after the final Ms. Cali hopes they will long remember the lyrics of the musical’s final number: 

“People make mistakes. Fathers, mothers. People make mistakes, holding to their own, thinking they’re alone […] But you are not alone. No one is alone.”

She adds: “[This] is why I am so grateful for this community. We are so fortunate to be teaching our children and raising them in such a special community. We are not alone — as students, as teachers, and as parents. The JIS community provides a strong reminder that no matter what ‘woods’ were are journeying through, we are not alone.”