HMHS alumna keeping memory of father alive through the arts

Allie Shaw, from the Haddonfield Memorial High School class of 2017, will present her play, “Don’t Kill Your Friends” for three performances at Grace Episcopal Church at the end of the month. Donations made by those who attend will go towards a memorial fund in the name of her father, Jack Shaw, who passed away from leukemia in 2015.

Allie Shaw, an alumna from the Haddonfield Memorial High School class of 2017, is an aspiring playwright who has written a work entitled “Don’t Kill Your Friends,” which is scheduled to be presented at Grace Episcopal Church in Haddonfield for three performances: Friday, June 28 at 7 p.m., then Saturday, June 29 at both 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. 

“The show has a lot of LGBTQ themes, specifically having a gay and lesbian character. It’s a very diverse cast. The show itself is a comedy despite the things that are mentioned as topics. It’s about killing your friends … literally,” explained Shaw. “It’s an ensemble show. It’s a kind of silly and crazy thing, but it’s about how (the rest of the group) deals with death and has connections with each other as teenagers.” 

Shaw plans this piece to be the central part of an eventual trilogy centered around the same themes and characters: “Don’t Kill Yourself,” “Don’t Kill Your Friends,” and “Don’t Kill Your Enemies.” According to Shaw, part one is in the writing stage and has yet to be completed, while part three won’t be tackled until part two has been performed and part one is completed.  

Although she only appeared in one production during her freshman year at HMHS, Allie has been studying theater for years, including at the Haddonfield Theater Arts Center since its opening and, most recently at Camden County College. She has previously had a one-act play presented at the Village Play Box in Haddon Heights. 

This time around, her art has a much more personal purpose. 

Jack Shaw, Allie’s father, died of leukemia in 2015. He was active in the local theater scene as an actor and a reviewer, and his final wish was the establishment of a fund to provide assistance to young people wanting to get into the performing arts.   

“It’s administered by the Eagle Theatre (of Hammonton). He did a lot of reviewing and got to know the folks down there. During the time he was in the hospital, we used to talk, first it was what he wanted to do when he got out and then it became obvious that it wasn’t going to happen,” said Allie’s mother Amy. 

“Because it’s costly to get headshots and to take classes. He remembered how he had trouble when he first started out. That’s when we came up with the idea for the fund and got our friends Ed (producing director Corsi) and Ted (Wioncek), artistic director of the Eagle, to manage it for us. It’s given out a few scholarships for summer theater programs and we do what we can to try and keep it going because that was his final wish.” 

Allie recognizes that opening her play in a house of worship might not have been the obvious choice given the restrictive doctrine of certain faiths regarding LGBTQ issues, but there’s a connection between art and faith within the play itself. 

“It’s actually kind of ironic, because there’s a line in the show (that deals with a particular character) where the funeral takes place inside a church. But I’ve done some things at Grace Church before and they’ve been pretty accommodating,” she said. 

One familiar theme surrounding the production, is how youth act and react to certain situations in life, and that youth and exuberance can overcome more than people might think. 

“I do have a production team who are passionate about the show. They’re all my friends and they’re all around the same age. All of the actors are young. The youngest one is 17, a senior in high school, and the oldest is 24. So it’s a young range playing high-schoolers and it’s incredible that they’re so ready to work on it,” Allie said.

Parents should note that “Don’t Kill Your Friends” is not recommended for those under the age of 13, due to sensitive subject matter. Cost of attendance is free, but donations will be accepted to benefit the Jack Shaw Memorial Fund for Aspiring Performers, managed by the Eagle Theater. 

For additional information regarding the production, contact Amy Shaw at amykshaw@verizon.net, or by phone at (856) 265-1462. Allie shaw can be contacted directly at missallieshaw@gmail.com, or by phone at (856) 449-4979.