I accidentally found a musical that I had started writing back in high school, and now I’m reading through it thinking, “This is so beautifully…cringe-worthy!”
This musical, called ‘How NOT To Be A Dumbass’ (you can tell what phase I was going through!), was my baby about three years ago. I loved it with everything I had, but despite my adoration and dedication to it, my studies got in the way of me finishing it. Looking at the plan I had for it (because high school Claire was super organised at times), I wasn’t too far off finishing. I was just struggling to write one of the songs that would then cause the rest of it to basically write itself.
Finishing HNTBAD was once upon a time my greatest ambition, and I am therefore determined to finish it before the end of the year. That gives me two months to juggle this bundle of joy with the tedious amount of working and studying I’m doing this year.
I will do it!
In the meantime, here is the dragged out summary high school Claire wrote about the musical:
“‘How NOT To Be A Dumbass’ is a musical on the issues that teenagers go through, and how the pressure from other peers can make them try to be somebody they’re not, and do stupid things in the attempt to impress everyone else and become popular at school.
The musical tells the comical story of a boy called Joel, who is known as the biggest dork at high school. He’s constantly getting on everyone’s nerves – even the teachers have lost their tempers with him on more than one occasion – as he tries to impress the group of popular kids. The problem is, the more he tries to act cool and ‘badass’ the more of a loser he looks, and the more school bully Danny and his gang pick on him. This really gets Joel at times, and it’s left to Kathy to cheer him up as usual. Kathy is Joel’s one and only friend, and seems to be the only one who can see Joel for the real him: a pleasant and not necessarily stupid lad with a big heart, not the dumbass jerk he pretends to be.
The first scene shows Joel looking out of his bedroom window, watching Danny and the popular kids walk past. Danny notices Joel, and says something to the rest of the group who all look up at Joel and snigger before continuing walking to school. Kathy calls at Joel’s so they can walk to school together, and along the way they awkwardly try to make conversation, but Joel is too busy thinking about how he can become cool and popular. Along the way, Joel spots Lisa with her friends, her giggles sounding very much like the noise a guinea pig makes. Kathy is horrified that Joel can fancy a bimbo like her, wearing a very short skirt and lots of makeup. It gets her down that she’s nothing like that, so Joel will never develop the feelings she’s developed for him.
Meanwhile, Joel catches Lisa’s eye. The two of them smile at one another for a while, until Joel walks into a lamppost. The group of girls giggle at him as he picks himself up off the floor, grins sheepishly and walks quickly away, Kathy tailing after him.
When they eventually make it to school, Joel and Kathy start talking about the maths homework that was due today, and obviously Joel hasn’t done it. The pair bump into Danny and his gang, who exchange a few horrid remarks about Kathy’s geeky ways, and how Joel lacks even half a brain cell. Joel tries to retort back, but his come back makes no sense and just sounds absolutely ridiculous, leaving Danny and his gang laughing in his face as they leave. Kathy grumbles at Joel before heading off to class on her own. Joel sighs and goes after her.
In the next scene, the bell rings for lunch. Danny and his gang pick on a young girl in the canteen because of how small she is, and shoves in front of her in the queue. However he spots Joel entering the canteen and abandons his space in the queue so that he shoulder shove him out the way and then turn to hurl a load of insults at him before walking away, his gang sneering at Joel as they follow. Joel sighs and goes to sit next to Kathy, who has calmed down since the beginning of school. Kathy tries to help Joel with his Geography homework, but Joel has noticed Lisa and her friends and is too busy staring at her to register what Kathy is saying to him. After a few more minutes of talking, Kathy realises that Joel isn’t listening, and she can literally say anything she wants to him and he wouldn’t hear her. She decides to say aloud her feelings for him, since he wasn’t listening. When she’s finished, Joel finally turns to her and dozily says, “Sorry, what were you saying?” to which she replies, “Never mind, it doesn’t matter.” What Kathy doesn’t know is that Lisa heard every word while her friends had been giggling at the gawky look on Joel’s face…
The next scene shows Joel’s year in PE class, boys on one side of the stage, girls on the other. The girls’ PE teacher takes the girls offstage for Netball, while the boys stay onstage, doing football. Danny and his gang start picking on Joel again about his poor football skills. Joel fights back and starts to exaggerate about how good he is, even comparing himself to David Beckham, despite the fact that he is absolutely useless at the sport. Unfortunately for Joel, the other boys don’t buy it, and they challenge him to take a penalty. After a long preparation Joel runs up to shoot, but misses the ball completely and falls flat on his back in the mud. The other boys roar with laughter, but Danny goes over and lends Joel a hand to help him up. Joel grabs his hand, but at the contact Danny recoils and Joel ends up in the mud again. The other boys roar with laughter again and Joel ends up in the middle of a bully circle, being pushed and shoved around, and eventually being shoved offstage, followed by the rest of the boys.
Meanwhile, the girls are playing netball. Kathy catches the ball and is blocked by Lisa. Lisa starts casually asking Kathy about her feelings for Joel, which Kathy denies as she throws the ball to someone else on her team and runs up the pitch to catch it again, Lisa on her tail. Lisa continues the conversation, and tells Kathy to stop denying it because she overheard her spilling her guts to him when he’d much rather it be her. Kathy throws the ball to the ground and tells Lisa to shut up, even though Lisa stands a head taller than her. Play has stopped altogether, and the other girls have formed a circle around the pair. Lisa says some really cruel things to Kathy and basically humiliates her in front of the rest of the class, and Kathy runs away crying, just as the PE teacher walks over. The teacher sends Lisa to her Head of Year’s office.
On her way to the Head of Year’s office, Lisa spots Joel covered in mud on his way to the boy’s changing rooms. She asks him what happened, and when he turns grumpily to speak to her and realises who it is his mouth opens with a funny noise and he finds himself unable to speak. Lisa asks him again, and after a lot of stammering Joel finally explains to her, to which she tells him that she’s on her way to the Head of Year’s office, but doesn’t tell him why. Joel believes it must be fate that they both end up here. Lisa then invites Joel to a party she’s having at her house, and says he can bring Kathy along as well. When Joel accepts the invitation, she continues her way, leaving Joel absolutely ecstatic.
After school Joel goes to Kathy and tells her about Lisa’s invitation, and asks her to come with him, but she refuses. She knows Lisa is doing this to upset her, not because she wants to be with Joel, but she can’t risk losing Joel as a friend by telling him – he’s like a lovesick puppy. Joel keeps begging her and begging her, and bit by bit Kathy softens, and instead of outright refusing she starts making excuses, like she has lots of work to do, and when that one fails she says she has nothing to wear. Joel asks her to go, for him, and at that Kathy finds herself saying that she will go.
Kathy meets Joel outside Lisa’s house. She looks barely recognisable from the geeky girl everyone knows at school. Instead of in its usual ponytail her hair is down, with a few waves and ringlets. She’s wearing a bit of eyeliner that brings out her eyes and a small amount of lip gloss so she still looks natural, and her dress compliments her figure that usually hides beneath the frumpy uniform or hoodie and jeans Joel is used to. Unfortunately for Kathy, Joel’s eyes are fixed on Lisa who he can see through the window, getting really drunk and dancing with all the guys in her living room. Kathy says she doesn’t think this is a good idea, but Joel is adamant that they go in.
When they go in the house, they notice that only the popular group from school have been invited, and they’re the only non-popular people there. This unnerves Kathy, but Joel loves it. He feels he’s finally going up in the world and that he’s being seen in a different light. He doesn’t realise that Lisa only invited them to upset Kathy. Kathy tries to stick with Joel, but he’s too busy trying to mingle with the others, and before she knows it, Kathy’s alone. She decides to sit on the sofa out of the way of everybody.
Joel, meanwhile, has got chatting to some girls. He’s trying to impress them with his dance moves, which are absolutely horrendous, so the freaked out girls leave him. Danny comes up behind him and tells Joel not to try so hard with girls and Joel nearly jumps out of his skin. Joel quickly recovers and tries to muster up a good comeback but again it comes out really lame. Danny smiles and tells Joel he shouldn’t try so hard altogether – people would probably like him for the real him if he embraced who he was. Joel asks why Danny why he’s all of a sudden being so nice to him when at school he’s always so mean. Danny laughs and asks Joel why he thinks. Joel says he doesn’t know, and Danny laughs again. He tells Joel that he has feelings for him, that he’s gay and he likes him. Joel goes pale and tries to get out of the room, but Danny is in the way and has to push Danny away when he tries to move in to kiss Joel. This hurts Danny, who asks Joel if he likes him too, to which Joel answers no really harshly and leaves.
Joel rushes to the bathroom to get his head around what had just happened, but finds Lisa sitting on the floor next to the toilet, leaning against the wall drunkenly. Joel finds a glass next to her and pours her a glass of water, but she doesn’t seem to be awake so he tips its contents over her head so as to wake her up. Pouring her another glass of water, he hands it to her but she just wrinkles her nose up at it and pours the water into the toilet bowl, dropping the glass in as well. Joel rolls his eyes and tries to help her up. As he gets her to her feet, she throws her arms around his neck and starts calling him her hero and rests her head on his chest. He keeps hold of her at the waist in case she collapses. Danny walks in and sees them together like this, and putting two and two together he storms out again. Joel just looks on, until Lisa vomits all over his shirt. And that is how Act 1 ends.
Act 2 starts back at school after the party, and everyone is gossiping about Lisa and Joel. Danny has spread it around that he caught Lisa and Joel together in the bathroom, and has let everyone’s imaginations take over. By lunchtime the whole school has heard the rumour that Lisa slept with Joel, and when Kathy hears it she believes it and is heartbroken.
Lisa is furious when she finds out. She pleads with Joel in front of her friends to put the record straight, but Joel realises that this is his chance to become popular and instead goes along with people’s rumours, much to Lisa’s horror. Her friends want nothing to do with her as they now think of her as cheap and desperate, while the popular lads pat Joel on the back. Lisa glares at him before she storms off, tears in her eyes.
Another person crying is Kathy. As she sits on her own on some steps, she sings a reprise of ‘For Once’. When the song ends, Joel enters, walking past without noticing Kathy. She calls out to him, asking if the rumours are true. He shifts from foot to foot, before stuttering out a “no”. She then asks him if he’s set the record straight to the school yet, and again he says no. She asks him why, then rolls her eyes when guesses that he’s going along with it, which he confirms. At this she starts yelling at him, how it’s not fair on Lisa and how he should tell the truth to everyone right now. At this particular moment, a voice agrees with her and Joel and Kathy both turn to see Lisa entering, white with fury.
Lisa starts to yell at Joel – how dare he ruin her reputation like this for his own selfish need to be popular – attracting the attention from others. She demands him to tell everyone the truth, which he pretends he doesn’t know what she’s talking about and that they did do the deed. She gets annoyed and then asks him what her tattoo is of on her thigh. Obviously he doesn’t know, and is therefore forced to admit he lied. Everyone is furious with him, and after being slapped by Lisa and her friends, Joel is left alone, apart from Kathy.
Kathy and Joel end up having a bit of a row about the matter, which turns a little more personal when Kathy tells Joel she has feelings for him. With that she leaves. Joel is stunned, and something inside him makes him run after Kathy. When he catches up with her, Kathy starts having a go at him again but he cuts her off by kissing her. The kiss is simple and tender and lasts for about five seconds. When they break apart they realise they didn’t feel the way they should have, and after a few more tries they come to the conclusion that they’re not attracted to one another after all, and decide they’re better off as just friends. Kathy is no longer angry with Joel, and the pair awkwardly shake hands and exit together.
In the next scene Joel goes to apologise to Lisa, but she wants nothing to do with him. He keeps trying however, resulting in her shouting at him in front of everybody again. He starts backing away as if to run away, but then Kathy catches his eye and this encourages him to stand his ground and say what he wanted to say. Everyone is quiet and they watch as Joel apologises to Lisa for all he’s done and for being such a jerk. After a long pause, Lisa awkwardly nods at him and then leaves. Joel hopes that this is her accepting his apology but he’s not sure. But all this is almost forgotten when he sees Danny watching him intently. He starts to approach him, but Danny runs off.
Later Kathy and Joel are walking outside on the school grounds when Joel notices Danny sitting alone, his head down and clearly in distress. Joel tells Kathy he’ll catch up with her and goes over to see if Danny is alright. Danny starts to get up to leave but Joel stops him and sits next to him. After an awkward silence, Joel tells Danny he knows that he was the one who started the rumours about him and Lisa, but he forgives him. Danny snorts in response and says that Joel only forgives him because he got to be the big man for an hour. Joel admits it, but says that that isn’t the only reason he forgives him. He tells Danny he understands that what he’s going through must be very hard to deal with, and that although he isn’t like that he once doubted his sexuality. Danny listens intently and smiles at Joel before looking forlorn again and putting his head in his hands. Joel then asks where all Danny’s friends are, to which Danny laughs and asks what friends. He explains how he came out to one of his closer friends, but he totally freaked out and told the rest of them and now they avoid him like the plague. This makes it even harder for him to come out if he wants to now. Joel tells Danny that he shouldn’t care what people think: he should be him and not listen to people badmouthing him. After all, as Lady Gaga once said, you’re born this way. He then has an idea. He stands up and offers Danny his hand and tells him to get up.
In the canteen, it’s starting to leak about Danny’s sexuality. When Joel and Danny enter, everyone starts whispering, and Danny knows it’s about him. He tries to leave but Joel stops him. Joel then addresses everyone and tells them that although Danny may be gay he is still a human being and still should be treated like one, not some freak. He comes out with a big speech about equality and being born the way you are, and when he’s finished, Danny’s friends go up to Danny and offer their hands in friendship. Danny accepts, and they apologize for being so cruel to him. Some other people go up to Danny to pat him on the back before exiting. Danny smiles gratefully at Joel, and silently words a thank you to him. His friends turn to Joel and decide that he isn’t that bad after all. This eventually leads to another reprise of ‘For Once’, with lyrics of “For once I am a bad-ass” whereas in the original it was “For once I’d be a bad-ass”. After the song, Danny pats Joel on the back and says that although Joel can hang out with the popular lot whenever he wants now, it doesn’t necessarily make him a badass.
The last scene shows Joel lurking in the bushes in the park, watching some of the cool kids smoking and drinking. As he edges around the bushes to get a closer look, he steps on something. He looks down and notices that it’s a gun. He picks it up, thinking how badass it would be to own a gun, especially at school. He daydreams about showing it off at school, however there is a twist of events and he accidently pulls the trigger and shoots someone. This ends his daydream and he decides it isn’t worth it and puts it back under the bush. Unfortunately for Joel, a policeman happens to notice him putting the gun back and comes to the conclusion that it is Joel’s and chases after him. Joel curses and runs away, pursued by the policeman. This ends the play.”