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High school hell: TheatreAC's 'Be More Chill' finds that teen angst can't be solved with a pill
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Jason Driver and Harrison Blount star in AC's "Be More Chill."
Photo by Chip Chandler

By Chip Chandler — Producer

"It's exactly who I was in high school."

That's how star Harrison Blount describes his character in TheatreAC's upcoming stagings of Be More Chill — though, presumably, Blount didn't have a pill-sized super-computer offering no end of dangerous advice.

Actually, Blount is comparing himself to character Jeremy Heere before his ingestion of SQUIP, the "super quantum unit intel processor" personified on stage by Jason Diver.

Jeremy's a loner, mostly content to play video games with friend Michael (Chance McDonald), but he decides to sign up for the school play as a way to spend more time with his crush, Chrstine Canigula (Lauren Cotton).

That's when he learns about SQUIP, which promises to help improve his social standing. And the computer minces no words: "Everything about you makes me wanna die."

"More than anything," Blount said, "he wants to be cool and accepted by his peers."

And Blount relates.

"My freshman year, I was so weird and gross and small, and people would pick on me for anything and I wouldn't give anything back because I don't like confrontation," Blount said. "Even now, just like I feel Jeremy gets a little cooler as the show goes on, I think I got a little cooler in college, but I still have a hard time taking advice on what is cool. It's difficult to figure out what's socially acceptable."

Based on the popular YA sci-fi novel by Ned Vizzini, the musical by Joe Iconis and Joe Tracz is "a little bit edgy," director Monty Downs said. "We've rated it a PG-13, but it's a strong one."

And though it boasts slightly futuristic setting and cyberpunk overtones, "it really is (about) things high school kids deal with," Downs said.

"It's definitely a bizarre show," he continued, "and when I first looked at it ... it looked like it was promoting underage drinking and sex and recreational drug use, but by the time you get to the end, it's not."

Cotton agreed.

"This whole show reminds me of what high school is ... with the bullying and anxiety," she said. 

And, like any good high-school tale, it ends with a relatable moral: "You don't have to be anyone else to live your life. You are you, and people are going to like you for who you are or not like you, no matter who you are," Blount said.

Be More Chill will open at 7:30 p.m. Friday and continue at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and May 3 to 5, plus 3 p.m. May 6, in the Amarillo College Experimental Theatre on the Washington Street campus. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for seniors, AC faculty, staff and students.

Call 806-371-5359.



Chip Chandler is a producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and on Facebook.