‘Rise’ sheds light on genuine, relatable issues

Review by Maria Determan ’18

As much as we wish our lives would flow perfectly from one scene to another, life doesn’t cooperate. The world’s camera doesn’t pan out when something gets awkward, intense or agonizingly difficult. Instead the world zooms in; so does “Rise.” 


“Rise” is a 10-episode NBC drama that premiered at 9 p.m. on March 13. Director Jason Katims’ goal for “Rise” was to capture the purest form of storytelling. Along with Jeffrey Seller, producer of “Hamilton,” Katims slowly unfolds the jaw-dropping vocal talent and riveting plot that begins in the dark, dilapidated hallways of Stanton High. The series begins by introducing Lou Mazzuchelli, an unfulfilled English teacher, who decides to step into the role of theater director. Lou throws every inch of his being into the struggling theater program though he can’t even distinguish stage right from stage left. 

Lou proposes “Spring Awakening” as the new production; only a handful of students show their face at auditions. Set in 19th century Germany, “Spring Awakening” shamelessly displays issues that teenagers still face today—themes such as suicide, sexual identity and teenage pregnancy. 

Though the student cast members of “Spring Awakening” live in a small town, they know less about each other than initially expected. Even in the first episode, the personal life of each student is exposed for what it truly is beyond the curtain. One student has a mother in the hospital, another, a cheating father, another is homeless and hungry, another whose parents refuse to accept him. 

Immediately their lives intertwine through “Spring Awakening,” but also through the painful burdens they carry beyond the stage. The small, motley cast becomes family—something the majority of them grapple with at home. They band together to support Lou, support the show but most of all – support each other. 

Needless to say administration bans the show, takes away the already paper thin budget and threatens to fire Lou—yet the cast stands behind him. Together they combat fiery hatred and hostility with every rehearsal, scene and song. 

Instead of focusing on the main characters, Katims and Seller allow the story to be told in every student’s point of view. This unique way of storytelling allows “Rise” to be brutally honest and open, no matter how painful each point of view is.

“Rise” is modern, though the town is in shambles and the theater program is stuck in the past. It is inspiring, a series based off of the true stories of students. It is relatable for teenagers, but yes, you can watch it with your mom. Each Tuesday as I watch these characters rise above their circumstances, I sink deeper and deeper into my couch. 

No other show I’ve watched has made me feel as if I am part of their world. “Rise” not only immerses me in the richness of their lives, but it lets me see and feel their weaknesses. I can see their pain, feel their joy and relate effortlessly to this journey they are on called life. 

Have you watched?  Let us know what you think… leave a comment or two.

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The Network is the student newspaper of Marian High School, Nebraska's only Class A College-Preparatory School for young women.

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