Black-tie -- or black armor and cape -- required.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to help organize and chaperone something I have been trying to bring to fruition for many years: Star Wars prom. With the help of my fellow junior class sponsors and the Midwest Garrison of the 501st, we helped to make this dream a reality, and it was even better than I could possibly imagine.
The first thing that had to happen was creating a theme that would encourage both fans, as well as Padawans of the franchise, that a Star Wars prom was not only an excellent way to celebrate this time-honored tradition, but to ensure a memorable experience for everyone in attendance. As usual, Star Wars delivered as we decided on one of John Williams most beautiful pieces of music, “Across the Stars,” the love theme of Anakin and Padmé from Attack of the Clones, as the title. This was perfect, as it is elegant and striking in its arrangement, and creates a chic atmosphere casual fans may not have expected.
With the theme settled, it was on to decorations. The goal was to honor and celebrate Star Wars, while juxtaposing a starry night environment. Our students decided on adorning the tables with light up tumblers and a few Star Wars character candy dishes, which ended up holding the crown of the future prom king and queen. For the backdrop, a gray color was decided upon, with a smattering of stars across the canvas, and a Death Star Fathead on the upper right corner.
Too good to be true? It gets better, as we had to come up with a way to dismiss students in an organized fashion to have a buffet-style dinner. Rather than settle for numbering the tables, my colleague decided upon Star Wars names for each, such as the Wookiee table, Jedi Knights, Dark Side, Rebels, and each of the six existing films. I actually got to hear, “If you are sitting at a Wookiee table, you are next to have dinner,” while I was attending to chaperone duties. Chewbacca would be so proud.
However, there was something missing, as we needed to add that ingredient to our Star Wars prom that promoted an atmosphere of galactic significance, and that spice came in the form of the 501st! Having worked with the Midwest Garrison in the past, I knew that having this amazing organization would create an electric atmosphere that would reverberate throughout the ball room. Not only did they create something incredible for our students, but they ensured that “Across the Stars” would be a prom that would leave an indelible mark on their high school experience.
This was made clear to me when I conversed with a member of the 501st via cell, and he let me know that troopers from all over the state of Illinois would be in attendance. My contact expressed his hope that I would not reveal which characters from the Star Wars films would be present, and I acquiesced to his request. I had a feeling the surprise on each student’s face would be well worth the anticipation I felt. Honestly, how many proms have you heard of that feature Stormtroopers, Jedi Knights, Sith Lords, and Mandalorians? And then, I found out Obi-Wan’s little friend would be at our Star Wars prom.
I will never forget the moment when the 501st made their appearance that evening. The DJ started playing “The Imperial March,” and there was momentary confusion, as dancing slowly turned to wonder and amazement. Through the main doors came Artoo-Detoo, followed by Stormtroopers, Tie pilots, a Snowtrooper, Jedi Knights, Padmé, a Biker Scout, and both Darth Vader and Darth Maul! The crowds turned in awe and surprise, as the buzz throughout the room was palpable. The 501st lined up in a corner, and students whipped out their cameras in a frenzy. Flashes of light cascaded throughout as both camera flash and lightsabers flourished through the Grand Ballroom. I don’t know if Artoo has ever been in more selfies, but he was eager to please.
Once it was time to crown the king and queen, “Across the Stars” played over the speakers, as the 501st formed a line to present all the attendants of this year’s Prom Court. It was a seamless way to cap off the evening, as John Williams score punctuated the perfect blend of Star Wars and elegance to elevate this prom to be a day long remembered. Truly, this is the prom Star Wars fans have been looking for.
Dan Zehr is a high school English teacher with an MS in Teaching and Learning, and is a proud member of the Rogues (as Blue Leader), a network of teachers that incorporate Star Wars in the Classroom. He also runs Coffee With Kenobi (with co-host Cory Clubb), a Star Wars Podcast that analyzes the saga through critical thinking, analysis, interviews, and discussion.