August 23, 2020, 11:30am PST.

Location: The school auditorium. The students, dressed in period clothes, are seated, while Friedman and a number of teachers – also in 1980’s dress – are on the stage. Friedman comes up to the podium, as a low buzz runs through the gathered students.

William Friedman: Well, well, well, here we are!

The students erupt with applause, shouting, hooting, and whistling.

Friedman: And we’re gonna’ show them aren’t we?  Show them what we can do!

Students: WOO HOO!!!

Friedman [Pointing out at the crowd]: ‘Cause this school is all about you. Your lives, your hopes, your dreams. It’s not about what we want or what they want. It’s about helping you develop and grow and learn and plan your own future.

Girl: We LOVE YOU Principal Friedman!

Friedman: And we love you. Every single one of you.  That’s what New Ridgemont High is, an expression of our love for all of you.

You’ll notice who isn’t on the stage with me: the police. There are no police at New Ridgemont High.

The crowd roars.

Friedman: There are no security guards in New Ridgemont High.

Shouts and loud whistling.

Friedman: There are no security cameras in New Ridgemont High.

Sean Anderson [To Fran Rosenberg]: See! I told you!

Fran Rosenberg: Shush, Sean! I’m listening.

Friedman: And that’s because New Ridgemont High is a school, not a prison.

The students leap up, clapping wildly and stamping their feet. The faculty and staff rise from their chairs, applauding.

Friedman: There were no police or security in a school like this, in the 1980’s, and students went about their daily business largely without incident. That was just a few decades ago, and since the human genome hasn’t changed over that time, I suspect we’ll get along just fine without them now.

More cheers.

Friedman: How do free periods sound?

Guys: YEAH!!!

Friedman: How about no hall monitors or passes?

Girls: Principal FRIIIEEEEDMAN!!!!!

Friedman: And I don’t suppose you’d mind if we have an open campus?

The crowd roars again. A chant of “New Ridgemont High” is struck up.

Friedman: I know it sounds like science fiction, given what your schools have been like up until now. But, remember that your parents went to a school like this, and if anyone can tell you what it was like to have real freedom and how precious it is, they can. Without them, New Ridgemont High never could have happened. Each and every one of you, without exception, has parents who cared enough that they were willing to take a chance on an experimental school. So let’s give them our applause too.

Another roar. Whistles.

Chloe Gold [To Mitch Bennett]: Oh my god, he’s fantastic!

Mitch Bennett: Yeah, I can’t believe what he’s saying.  Adults don’t talk like that. It’s crazy, but in a good way.

Friedman: And let me say a few things about your lives outside of school. New Ridgemont High is based on a sociological model that works on the concept of immersion, so beyond the school, we’ve worked hard to recreate the 1980’s in the larger community; in local businesses, television and radio, even in your own homes. It’ll be VCRs and record and cassette players and an MTV that does nothing but play period music videos. It’ll mean no internet, no social media, no Playstations or XBoxes, no mobile phones. We’re shooting for a total experience.

That probably worries some of you, but by way of closing, let me point something out. Earlier, when we broke out the clothes, you were talking to each other, meeting new people, rediscovering old friends, all in a way that has almost disappeared among young people today. Part of it is because you’re giving your full attention to one another, instead of giving it to whomever it is you’re interacting with texting or on social media, and part of it is because you were able to mingle freely, without adult interference, around points of common interest, in this case, something as simple as clothes.

I believe that the only way to confront the harsh realities you are facing today, both in school and out, is to address all of the forces that conspire to destroy your capacity to interact with one another and with the larger world. Technology is one such force.  Contemporary media is another. But they all play a role, which means that it isn’t enough to change just one or a few of them. In that sense, New Ridgemont High is a social experiment in the truest sense of the word, because what we are creating here is not just an experimental school, but an experimental community.

Friedman turns and gestures towards the teachers on the stage. 

Friedman: Speaking of our community, let me introduce some of our superb teaching staff. Colleagues, please stand as I call your name.

First up is Sal Levy. Sal and I have been friends since childhood, and he was heavily involved in the development of New Ridgemont High. He has master’s degrees in physics and mechanical engineering from CalTech. He not only will chair our science department but will teach physics, as well as our Shop classes. Please show him your appreciation!

Sal Levy stands and waves at the students, who cheer and whistle in return.

Friedman: Next is Jon Jameson, who will chair and teach in our English Department. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English Literature from Yale University. Please extend him a warm welcome!

Jon Jameson stands, a broad smile on his face. More cheers and whistles from the crowd.

Friedman: Third is Patricia Stark, a PhD in Mathematics who got her BA at Wesleyan and her doctorate at the University of Edinburgh. She will be chairing our Math department and teaching trigonometry and calculus. Welcome Pat!

Pat Stark stands, gives a short, slightly nervous wave and sits again quickly.

Friedman: Finally, Jules Longo, who will be heading up our foreign language department and teaching French literature, as well as our AP course in French. Jules did his undergraduate and graduate work at the Sorbonne. Jules!

Jules Longo: [Bounds up energetically. Pumps his fist.] Allons y!!!

The students roar.

Friedman: The rest of our fabulous faculty and staff are busy getting things ready for our first day. You will meet them all soon.

You’ve undoubtedly noticed that I have not introduced any other administrators, and specifically, Assistant Principals. 

A titter runs across the auditorium.

Friedman: AP’s were the ones who “got you in trouble.” A typical suburban high school in the 1980’s had one. Schools today may have a half-dozen, which is … a lot of trouble.

This school’s student body is 100% self-selected, so I’m not expecting much by way of trouble. Regardless, what passes for “trouble” today is mostly BS; stuff that wouldn’t have even gotten a yawn a few decades ago. So we’ll open with zero Assistant Principals.  

Sean Anderson [to Fran]: Trouble is my middle name, and this place is ripe.

Fran Rosenberg: What you call ‘trouble’ is the BS he’s talking about. You’re not exactly an arch-criminal. You really think he’s going to get stressed over you and your boys doing doughnuts in the parking lot?

Sean [singing and air-guitaring while whispering]: “Smokin’ in the boys’ room!”

Fran: I wonder if “trouble” will be as much fun when nobody cares.

Friedman: Well that’s all I have for you. Let’s get our first day started! It’ll be the third period! Welcome to New Ridgemont High!

The students let out a final roar and stand as Friedman gives one last wave and he and the assembled faculty exit stage left.


September 1, 2020, 1:45pm, PST.

Location:  Bobbie Novak’s Biology Class.  The students are sitting at laboratory tables that stretch, two across the room, five rows deep.  Novak is sitting, barefoot, Indian-style, on a single lab table at the front of the room.  Behind her are two chalkboards, covered with drawings of cells and bold, scribbled writing.  Novak has abandoned the scheduled lecture and is chatting with the students.

Scott Tillman [Seated next to Brett Lawrence]: Bobbie, when’s this study thing gonna’ be?

Bobbie Novak: I’m thinking about this weekend.  Saturday, maybe, or Sunday. Whichever is better for you guys.

Brett Lawrence: We’re gonna’ come to school over the weekend? Won’t everything be locked up? 

Bobbie: No, it’ll be at my house. We can hang out around my pool.

Scott: At your house?

Bobbie: Why not?

Brett: In your pool?

Bobbie: Seems like a good idea. You got something better to do? A hot date, maybe?

Scott: Yeah, right!

Kevin Reilly [From the back]: You gonna’ wear a bikini Bobbie?

Bobbie: Would that excite you Kevin?

Marty Savini [Kevin’s lab partner]: Ha!

Jenny Pearl: Do you want us to bring anything?

Bobbie: Just yourself and your class notes. I’ll supply the food and the punch.

Marty: Hope nothing spills into that punch Bobbie!

Bobbie:  I’ll have my eyes on you, at all times, Mr. Savini.

Marty: I’ll be wearing my black Speedos!

Monica Rabin: Well that sounds attractive.

Bobbie: Are you sure they won’t be a little loose Marty?

Kevin: Whoa! You are toast, man.

Marty: Oh, man, bested. It hurts.

Bobbie: I am the best.  Never forget it.

Kevin and Marty [Bowing]: We’re not worthy.

Bobbie [Laughing]: Just be there. Saturday? Sunday?

Class: Saturday!

Bobbie: Okay, Saturday it is, then. Noon. Lunch, drinks, swimming, and the best pre-test study session you’ve ever had.

Kevin [Whispering to Marty]: You know she’s gonna’ wear a bikini. It’ll be mint.

Marty [Whispering]: I’m up for that. Did you just say ‘mint’?

Kevin [Whispering]: I’m practicing my ‘80s lingo. My cousin smoked me out last week and laid all this ‘80s shit on me. Totally rad!

Marty [Laughing]: I’m comin’ with you next time.

Bobbie: Marty, are you still trying to figure out how to fill those Speedos?

Kevin: OHHH!!!

Marty: You’re killing me, Bobbie.

Bobbie: You’re killing my class. Stop the chatter.

Marty: Sorry.

Bobbie: Okay, we’ve got a little time left before the break and then we’ll come back for lab.

Scott: What do you do, during the break, Bobbie?

Kevin: She chain smokes in the supply closet! I’ve seen it.  Smoke pouring out and shit. She’s disabled the smoke detector.

[The students laugh noisily]

Bobbie: Reilly!

Kevin: Yes, ma’am!

Bobbie: You stay out of my supply closet!

Kevin: I will, ma’am!

Bobbie: So who’s got something for the last five minutes?  Scott, you went last time. Monica? Denise?  Got anything? 

Marty: [Gesturing at Kevin] We went to the Pink Floyd laser light show at the Planetarium last night!

Bobbie: Biology-related, Mr. Savini.

Jenny Pearl: I’ve got something!

Bobbie: Shoot.

Jenny: Okay, so I’m totally hooked on those 70’s nature shows. Jacques Cousteau and stuff like that.

Monica: Why do you like them so much?

Jenny: ‘Cause they’re nice, you know?  None of this “let’s wave bloody meat in front of sharks and have them attack some guy” or wrestling giant snakes.

Monica: Yeah, I hate that too. It’s why I never watch nature programs anymore.

Jenny: Anyway, there was this show on animal intelligence last night.

Bobbie: Now, that is interesting. Tell us a little.

Jenny: They were showing how they test for intelligence in animals. They had dolphins and chimpanzees. The dolphins were amazing. They taught them how to understand instructions.

Bobbie: How?

Jenny: Well, like, they would do these hand signals. You know, both arms out means “go” and waving hands means “bell”…. stuff like that. They were telling the dolphins to ring a bell, bring back a bucket, ask for fish…

Marty: That doesn’t prove they’re intelligent. It could just be like training your dog to fetch a ball.

Bobbie: That’s a very smart observation, Marty. Did they do anything else, Jenny?

Jenny: Well, yeah, they would do the signals in different combinations and the scientists on the show said that the fact that the dolphins could follow new combinations of instructions showed that they had a – what did they call it?  Wait, I wrote it down – a syntax.

Marty: I still think it could just be that they were trained.  It’s not like the dolphin suddenly asked the scientist what time it was or whether he could have the day off.

Jenny: I guess. Anyway, the coolest thing was what they did with the mirror and the video.

Bobbie: What was that?

Jenny: Well, they put a mirror in the tank. Next to it was a television, showing a video of a dolphin swimming.

Bobbie: And?

Jenny: It was the funniest thing. The dolphin looked at the television for a minute and then started making faces into the mirror.

Marty: Whoa!

Bobbie: Why do you say that, Marty?

Marty: Well, does that mean that the dolphin knows who he is?

Bobbie [smiling]: I don’t know, what do you think?

September 20, 2020, 10:00am, PST.

Location: The hallway between the main building and the English wing. One side is lined with windows, overlooking a quad, while the other is lined with lockers. Jaime Cohen, Valerie Saunders, Erica Carlson, Denise Diamond, and Elizabeth Goodman are sitting in front of the lockers, chatting.

Jaime: So, did everyone get called back for cheerleading?

Valeries: Erica and I did.  We just went down to the girls locker room and checked a few minutes ago.

Denise: [Laughs] Liz and I did that yesterday.  We’ve both been called back too.

Jaime: Who else was on the list? I was rushing to class, when I checked, and only had time to look for my name.

Denise: Um, let’s see, there was that girl from Stephens – what’s her name? Anna. That’s it, Anna – and that other girl, the blonde from Beverly Hills High … you know, the one who’s running for Student Body President?

Jaime: Chloe Gold.

Denise: Yeah, that’s her.

Jaime: Ugh.

Denise: Why “ugh”?

Jaime: I can’t stand her. She thinks she’s better than everyone.

Denise: I don’t know, she seems alright. She’s really pretty.

Jaime: [Snorts] That girl has ‘overrated’ written all over her. Anyone with that much money could look good.

Elizabeth: Like you should talk, Miss “my father owns half of downtown L.A.”

Valerie: Yeah, it’s not like any of us are paupers.

Jaime: Are you kidding? That girl’s father is the lawyer for every top Studio exec in Hollywood. She’s got more money than all of us combined.

Elizabeth: You’re crazy. She drives an old 1970’s Chevy Nova. 

Valerie: And she likes to hang out with dweebs. I’ve seen her draped all over that Mitch Bennett kid.

Jaime: You see! You’re proving my point!

Valerie: And how, exactly, does driving a shitty car and hanging out with dweebs prove that Chloe Gold is a snob queen?

Jaime: It’s a moral superiority pose. “Oh, look how tolerant I am, hanging out with losers and driving a loser car.” I mean, how fucking transparent is that?

Elizabeth: Wow, Jaime, you are a serious bitch.

Jaime: Liz!

Erica: [Putting her hand on Jaime’s forehead] You are a little feverish, sweetie.

Jaime: [Growling] You guys are driving me nuts!

Erica: So, are you still having this party on Saturday, Jaime, or are you going to be too traumatized over the fact that Chloe Gold might make cheerleading?

Jaime: No, I’m having it. My parents are gonna’ be gone for three days, and I’m gonna’ be drunk and stoned for all of them.

Erica: Are you inviting Carl?

Jaime: I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet.

Denise: What’s stopping you? He’s hot and he’s Captain of the Football team.

Jaime: I just don’t want to deal with the pressures of a relationship right now, and he’s gonna’ want one – a relationship, I mean. He’s not a casual sex kinda’ guy.

Valerie: So, why don’t you want to “deal with the pressures of a relationship”?

Jaime: I don’t know. I feel like I’m still adjusting to this new school. You have to admit, it’s kinda weird sometimes.

Erica: Yeah, I don’t know what’s weirder, seeing Flock of Seagulls videos on MTV or seeing my mom in a spandex leotard, headband, and legwarmers doing aerobics to Flock of Seagulls videos on MTV.

Jaime: Wow, that’s intense. How are you coping?

Erica: One day at a time. I’m thinking of starting a “My parents are stuck in the ‘80’s” support group.

Elizabeth: Well, I think it’s great. I already hated social media and the music’s way better. I mean, what would you rather have playing on the radio, while you’re driving down to Malibu with the top down, Duran Duran or Taylor Swift?

Valerie: I’d rather cut off my own head than listen to Taylor Swift.

Erica: I have to say, I haven’t missed social media either. It was nothing but a global backstabbing convention.

Denise: [Laughing] Yeah! We can do our backstabbing in person!

All: [Hi-Fives all around] Ha ha! Star Crew!