EXCLUSIVE: “A part of me, like, wants to go back to being a normal teenager again, but I just feel like how can you go back when all of this is happening?” wonders 16 year-old Sawyer Garrity who is one of the students featured on the short documentary Awakening: After Parkland. The play, and the doc, follows young actors — which includes students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — as they stage a play through Barclay’s Performing Arts to try to bring a semblance of normalcy back to their lives and the surrounding community. The 20-minute short was directed by Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster whose Science Fair won the Audience Award at Sundance.

Five students in the featured play are from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and are guided by a dedicated Boca Raton-based theater director, Christine Barclay. The two leads of the play are Garrity and Cameron Kasky. Garrity composed the song Shine and she spoke and performed at the March for Our Lives in D.C.  Kasky co-founded Never Again MSD which helped to mobilize for the March for Our Lives and also famously questioned Marco Rubio (R-FL) about taking NRA money during the CNN townhall. Alex Wind, who is leading the Never Again movement, is also in the production as is Kirsten McConnell and Ethan Kaufman.

Spring Awakening, based on an 1891 German production, was redone as a musical by Duncan Sheik (music) and Steven Sater (lyrics) after the Columbine High School massacre and was chosen by the Performing Arts theater troupe in January — a month before 14 students and three educators were shot and killed on Valentine’s Day. The theme, ironically, is about teenagers coming into their own.

Mona Panchal, the executive producer at NY-based studio Topic which produces audio/visual cross-platform content for its Topic.com, produced and oversaw the production. “The film originated from a story that we commissioned from writer Isaac Butler entitled ‘They Don’t Do Sadness,’ which was about the performance of Spring Awakening in Boca Raton. We commissioned it for our (April digital) issue. He’s a theater historian and he recently wrote an oral history on Angels in America.”

Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster
Courtesy of Topic

Drawing from inspiration from the piece, they decided to make a film about it. “I had just seen the Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster film Science Fair which won the audience award at Sundance, and I thought they would be perfect for this because they respect kids’ intelligence and the clarity in which they see the world. They see kids as powerful thinkers and leaders and they really said that in both of these films,” Panchal told Deadline. “They happened to have a little window available and we asked them if they would do it. They were interested in doing something about the kids and were excited about doing a film featuring the kids. They did a beautiful job.”

The 20-minute film started shooting at the end of April and finished yesterday, June 19  and will be available July 2 on Topic.com. Debra Granik’s critically acclaimed new film, Leave No Trace is among the projects at First Look Media. Topic Studios is part of First Look Media (Spotlight).