Preston Allen Brings Horror to High School in ‘We Are the Tigers’
Preston Allen is here to make your high school dreams come true, nightmares that is. The writer, composer, and lyricist brings horror to the hallowed halls of high school in “We Are The Tigers,” about a cheerleading team that gets murderous.
“There are so many boxes societal standards require women to check. To be popular. To be confident. To seem blasé like you don’t care and nothing phases you,” Allen says. “Growing up in the ‘90s, magazines and media all projected this one way to be a woman. In ‘Tigers,’ we’re seeing how those pressures affect nine women and how they all deal, or don’t deal, with it.”
TodayTix caught up with Allen about high school, finding yourself, finding a murderer (duh), and his new musical’s killer Off-Broadway run.
We Are The Tigers is considered “a dark comedy horror musical” and has been compared to everything from “Bring It On” to “Scream.” What inspired you to mix high school drama with horror?
High school can feel like life or death stakes – so why not take that literally? To speak to the horror aspect a little, what horror can do as a genre is take real human energy and stakes and amplify them to the extreme. So, in this case, we take the experience of trying to fit in and the real pressures teenage girls face and we kick it up a notch so we have a little murder and mayhem.
What kind of music inspires you most as a composer?
Growing up on “Spring Awakening,” I realized that musical theater could sound like what I heard on the radio. I love listening to Regina Spektor, Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, and Delta Rae. Seeing musicals like “Next to Normal” taught me musicals can tackle real things and they don’t need to be huge, they just need to be honest.
How does it feel to create original work and see your show on an Off-Broadway stage?
Almost everything right now is a jukebox musical or an adaptation – even the smaller, more subtle shows you may not expect to be based on an existing property. And that’s not to knock those shows – they can be great – but the barrier to entry for a new musical is higher. The audience isn’t going to know all the music. They won’t know my name. They’re not going to know they like it already. Asking audiences to come to something they don’t already know they’re gonna like is something we’ve shifted away from.
You’ve been very open on social media and in interviews about your experience as a queer, transgender man. How does this play into the stories you want to tell onstage and specifically in “We Are The Tigers”?
What makes me excited about the queer element of the show is that it’s not being queer that’s scary to the characters, it’s being in love that’s scary, and having intense friendships that’s scary. I love having a character onstage wearing a rainbow pin and being openly queer and it’s just not a thing. I’m excited for more broad ways I can tell queer stories because even just a little touch of it in “Tigers” makes me happy.
You’ve said that you started writing “We Are The Tigers” while you were still in college, and before your transition. How has the piece changed over the years, and how have you changed as its writer?
Earlier drafts of “We Are The Tigers” were even campier and more heightened and most of the show couldn’t happen in reality. The characters were very archetypal. As I began transitioning [from female to male], I began to better understand the complicated relationship I had with these “archetypal types of girls in high school.” I was subconsciously almost trying them on and realizing like, wait, none of these girls are me and that’s ok. It made me look more closely at these internalized, cinematic, media-driven stereotypes I had in my head about women that I’d latched onto to try and build or perform a female identity. Without the weight of that, I had more space to really make these characters more specific and give real validity to their struggles without judging them, because I was no longer judging myself.