“Decatur 404” - Original Musical

Blue Ridge School Theater
Friday, February 9 at 7PM
Saturday, February 10 at 3PM

Decatur 404: An original musical by student playwright, Franck Germain '18

Decatur 404: The Story

Decatur 404 refers to an area code in Atlanta, Georgia. Franck lives in Atlanta, however, the play is not autobiographical regarding its narrative.

Decatur 404 looks at some of the obstacles facing youth in an underprivileged neighborhood. There are African-Americans, Hispanic, Caucasian, Asian, and mixed races living together but all deal with finding a way toward safety, their future, and a sense of self-worth. A youth group and a drug dealer each compete for commitment of the youth.

Levi, a rising hip-hop artist returns to the neighborhood, inspiring neighborhood teenagers to consider their own chances in the music industry. In one scene, the drug gang seduce one of their former runners--now in the youth group--to return to their fold to join a hip hop label started by the drug dealer. Levi’s own manager reminds him that he expressed an interest in getting out of the neighborhood and that it’s either basketball or the music industry and only a very few ever make it. By the end of the play, Levi comes to terms with the limits of that thinking and develops a way to stay and support the youth group while continuing to develop his career.

Getting out of poverty by means of some sort of celebrity is redressed by the main character. Not only does this serve but a fraction of a percent of the population in these conditions but does not offer a sustainable future for the celebrity. Instead, the main characters develop programs to build the confidence and self-worth of the youth.

The rising hip-hop artist from Decatur 404 is old school. His rap is message-based and is obviously inspired by personal experience. He is invited to join the label of a successful more pop-oriented hip-hop artist. The difference between the two artists teases out commitment to the context of material versus commitment to success in the industry. On the other hand, the old school hip-hop artist feels he must sustain an emotional and psychological tie to the suffering in his neighborhood and this prevents him from embracing more positive options and outlooks for himself and for his peers.

The memorial service for the half-brother of the rising hip-hop artist combines sorrow and energetic celebration of the deceased life. It concludes with a haunting ballad featuring a live cello counterpoint.

 

Decatur 404: The Production

The students involved in production have decided to take advantage of the hip-hop artist concert image and emulate concert publicity and marketing. Posters for the play will appear as announcements of concerts for either of the two hip-hop celebrities, with the school production information at the foot of the poster. Students have reviewed scores of hip-hop artists concert posters. The program for the show will look like a music industry magazine and its content will be in the form of articles, while delivering the requisite scene information and bios of the actors and crew.

The music used in Decatur 404 is hip hop. Most of the music is written in a studio and recorded electronically with the vocal tracks left out for live performance.

Dances are choreographed by various students, some improvised for freestyle rap battles while other moves are more choreographed for the two featured concert scenes.

Students are producing a shirt and, possibly, a cap emulating merchandise of one of the celebrity hip-hop characters in the play. Audience members can purchase these before hand to wear to the performance or during the performance itself.

The entire production is being captured as a short documentary to be screened prior to the show to give the audience a look at behind-the-scenes, thus giving well-deserved attention to non-acting members of production.

The sets are designed and built by students. A permanent backdrop is the face of low-income town houses that tower into the ceiling of the stage. Two scenes take place on a blacktop basketball court lit by two lonely street lamps.

 

Decatur 404: The Playwright

Franck Germain is a senior at Blue Ridge School. This is his first play.