Phoenix High School senior Conrad Hulen directs the ending to his musical “Deadlined” during a rehearsal. pennell photo - Bob Pennell

Making 'Deadlined'

The Daily Harbinger's star reporter, Fred, has vanished without explanation in the course of investigating a large media conglomerate's plans to buy a small newspaper in the region.

Fred's successor, Theo, picks up the investigation to find out which newspaper the Philadelphia Journal Co. plans to acquire in its effort to secure a monopoly on the media.

So the tale about the newsroom intrigue unfolds in an original musical comedy by Phoenix High School seniors Conrad Hulen and Dan Daly set to debut on Valentine's Day at the high school's Rose Street Theatre.

Hulen and Daly wrote "Deadlined" together as their senior project, a requirement for graduation from Phoenix High School.

They conceived the idea last summer while watching a youth orchestra from Palo Alto perform on the Elizabethan Stage at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

"We said, 'That's really good. We should try to do something like that, a musical,' " Daly recalled.

On long summer days, Hulen devised the plot for their production and developed characters.

Meanwhile, Daly wrote scores for the eight songs in the musical.

A 1940s newsroom was chosen because it's "a picturesque setting," Hulen said.

A newsroom is also easy and inexpensive to imitate and requires no switch in set, he said.

Hulen and Daly held open auditions for the musical in late November. The cast of 11 actors began rehearsing in December, meeting after school for about two hours every day.

Phoenix High School requires seniors to spend at least 30 hours on each senior project. Hulen and Daly spent more than 30 hours just writing the script and music.

In the process, the pair learned a lot about how to compromise, they said.

"The difficulty came in marrying the lyrics and the music," said Daly who wants to study music theory and composition in college. "I had to compromise to make my ideas fits with the lyrics and the plot."

The name of the musical, "Deadlined," refers to both the newspaper "deadline" and the belief among Fred's colleagues that he's dead.

"We'd thought it would be cool to make a new verb," said Hulen, who plans to study political science and English in college. "It's a catchy word and pertains to the plot."

In conjunction with its premiere on Valentine's Day, "Deadlined" contains a thread of romance between Theo, played by sophomore Andrew Rogers, and the newsroom secretary, Michelle, played by senior Chelsea Sunitsch.

"It's hilarious," Sunitsch said. "The first time we read it, all of us were in stitches."

The script was meant to be simple and comical, drawing from the charm of a stereotypical 1940s newsroom, Hulen said.

But the newsroom Hulen portrays in "Deadlined" is timely: one threatened by corporate buyouts and possible dissolution.

"Every writer takes from the age in which they live, but in the script I wasn't trying to make any social statements," Hulen said.

"Any resemblance to real people or events is coincidental," he added, quoting a common disclaimer used in works of fiction.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or

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