A former tutor’s off-Broadway show tackles NYC’s high-stress high school admissions

A former tutor’s off-Broadway show tackles NYC’s high-stress high school admissions

New York City’s high-stakes high school admissions process is taking center stage in a new off-Broadway production.

School Pictures, running through Dec. 3 at Playwrights Horizons theater, draws on playwright Milo Cramer’s experience as a tutor, which often entailed preparing kids for the Specialized High School Admissions Test that determines entry to eight coveted public schools.

Through a series of musical vignettes, all performed by Cramer over ukulele and piano with a lone teacher’s desk in the background, the play offers a portrait — by turns funny, wrenching, and hopeful — of kids navigating academic stress, social pressure, and parental expectations.

While the SHSAT looms large, Cramer’s students also grapple with classroom challenges and applications to other competitive public and private schools.

There’s the aspiring actress whose dad pushes her to dredge up a traumatic incident to craft a better response to an admissions essay prompt about overcoming adversity; the accomplished preteen student-athlete struggling to write an introductory email to a would-be high school coach; the student so anxious about climate change she can’t bring herself to study.
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