In praising “the witty high school romp” How I Paid for College, the New York Times Book Review said, it “makes you hope there’s a lot more where this came from.” There is. In this hilarious sequel Attack of the Theater People, Edward Zanni and his merry crew of high school musical-comedy miscreants move to the magical wonderland that is Manhattan.
It is 1986, and aspiring actor Edward Zanni has been kicked out of drama school for being “too jazz hands for Juilliard.” Mortified, Edward heads out into the urban jungle of eighties New York City and finally lands a job as a “party motivator” who gets thirteen-year-olds to dance at bar mitzvahs and charms businesspeople as a “stealth guest” at corporate events. When he accidentally gets caught up in insider trading with a handsome stockbroker named Chad, only the help of his crew from How I Paid for College can rescue him from a stretch in Club Fed.
Laced with the inspired zaniness of classic American musical comedy, Attack of the Theater People matches the big hair of the eighties with an even bigger heart.
1. Edward gets a lot of advice from everyone around him, much of it bad. With which advice do you agree? If you were his friend, what would you tell him?
2. Edward pretends to be a lot of people. How does that relate thematically to the book?
3. How I Paid for College is a love letter to friends. What is Attack of the Theater People a love letter to?
4. How do the two books differ?
5. Edward is told he’s “too jazz hands for Juilliard.” How does that relate to his feelings about his sexuality and his relationship with Hung?
6. Edward continues to be infatuated with Doug. Is Doug gay, straight or bisexual?
7. Which of this crew of friends are you and your friends the most like?
8. This is a book about finding your place in the world. What do you think Edward will do next? What about the rest of his friends?
9. How does the 1980s atmosphere affect the story? How would it be different or the same today?
10. Shakespearean references abound throughout. What do they say about the characters and situations?
11. Both Natie and Chad have no ethical problem with sharing inside information for financial gain. How do you feel about it?
12. Many of these characters have almost religious feelings about the theater. Why do you suppose so few people go to the theater?
13. Edward comes of age during the second-worst season on Broadway (the first being the season before). Why do you suppose that happened? How did Broadway come back? How has it changed?
14. What’s the thematic significance of Edward and Paula fixing the gridlock on Broadway?
15. If you were to create a piece of Guerilla Theater, what would it be?