Drama High author Michael Sokolove on his life story being turned into Rise

Michael Sokolove didn’t know his acclaimed 2013 book Drama High, a recounting of his high school experience with legendary theater teacher Lou Volpe, would become a major TV series. But he wasn’t exactly shocked by it, either. “It’s awful to say yes,” he cracks when asked if he expected the development. “I knew it would be of interest … what’s really unusual is for it to ever get anywhere. I never thought it would get to the finish line because that almost never happens.”

The book was optioned right out of the gate by Sony, a contract which the studio even renewed, but an adaptation never got anywhere after two years. Interest remained high, though, and it was the dogged pursuit of the rights by producer Jeffrey Seller (Hamilton) which brought Sokolove’s story to the screen. Seller worked with Sokolove on bringing the project to NBC, where Jason Katims — who knows a thing or two about inspirational high school stories — signed on as writer and co-developer. Next thing you know, Rise was born.

Drama High takes place in Levittown, Pennsylvania, a former steel town racked by structural economic changes, and traces Volpe’s remarkable efforts as a public high school theater director to transform his students’ lives. Sokolove was one such student, turning his experience into a beloved book, but as he reminds us, there are thousands like him who were encouraged to be creative and passionate in a place where they felt surrounded by despair and decay.

Sokolove admits it’ll be strange to see part of his life story now play out before millions of viewers on a weekly basis. But he also believes the book’s message provides a particularly vital commentary in today’s cultural climate. “I was writing this at a time when it was just becoming clear to people that some of these towns were really emptying out — not of people, but of opportunity,” he explains, referencing his nuanced portrait of the kind of community that now tends to be stereotyped. “And it was before Donald Trump.” The book also makes a powerful argument for public arts education — and given the funding cuts supported by the current administration, it’s one Sokolove says is worth hearing. “ who went to school was inspired by trying to get a standardized test score,” he explains. “What Lou shows so clearly is that education is still about passion …read more

Source:: Entertainment Weekly


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