"Euphoria": A Theater Teacher Breaks Down Lexi's Lavish Play

It's no secret that "Euphoria" is one wildly ambitious ride. Between Rue's (Zendaya) ridiculous police chase to prepubescent Ashtray (Javon Walton) having a bullet-riddled showdown with a SWAT team, the lines between reality and fantasy often get blurred in the series. But Lexi's (Maude Apatow) true-life-inspired play, "Our Life" (based on the actor's high school play that she produced in real life), is the show's biggest creative effort yet. And in true "Euphoria" fashion, everything about the production is way over the top. The playwright prodigy had us scratching our heads during the final two episodes of season two with all of the play's elaborate scenery and costly props. So, of course, the big question: what in the world is Lexi's budget?!

We tapped a former high school theater director to get to the bottom of the mystery and some much-needed perspective. Timothy Cheeseman — a poet laureate and former English teacher who directed Shawnee High School's theater program from 1997 to 2018 — is not an avid viewer of "Euphoria," but his 22 years of experience bring clarity to what seems absurd in Lexi's play. Though he notes that most high schools in the US typically run theater programs the same way, there are a few outliers that exist in very distinct areas — and "Euphoria"'s East Highland may be one of them.

The program Cheeseman led at his affluent suburban high school in Lima, OH, was "very self-sufficient" when it came to funding. "Sometimes we had money, and sometimes we didn't," Cheeseman tells POPSUGAR of his previous productions. "You're piecing together outfits from anywhere you can get them, and we built all of our sets ourselves." He adds that, in his experience, he and his team were also responsible for paying for nearly everything themselves by fundraising for each play — which included covering costs for ticket sales, promotions, costumes, sets, and props. And nothing moved without first submitting an official budget sheet. "High schools are incredibly technically organized," Cheeseman explains. "I had to put forth a budget every year that the school approved, and I had to do all the record keeping of monies, where I brought it in, and what I spent it on."

"No, I don't think [Lexi's play's budget] is realistic at all, but I also think that's okay."

From what we see of Lexi's production, its intricate details make it hard to believe her school financed the whole thing — especially since it appears East Highland is a public school. And at no point does it seem like a budget is Lexi's concern. So how did she afford to produce something so extravagant?

The dollar amount is still unclear, but "Euphoria"'s production designer, Jason Baldwin Stewart, did clarify why the play resembled a Broadway-level production. "We threw out the rules of keeping the set at a high-school level," he told Vulture. "It was more interesting to just see what we could do." Director of photography Marcell Rév also adds that the play isn't meant to be based in realism, but instead to serve as a reflection of what high school students envision when they put on plays — something Cheeseman echoes as well. "No, I don't think [Lexi's play's budget] is realistic at all, but I also think that's okay," he says. "I think for the teenagers, that's how they see it. They absolutely think [plays] are lavish and if you do it right, as the director and teacher, they think it's polished and wonderful. They sense the glamour and production of the whole experience, and they remember it for their whole lives."


Budget aside, there's another unbelievable aspect about Lexi's play that has viewers puzzled: how does she make time to write an entire play, produce it, and memorize lines to star in it? Well, the answer is actually more complex than you'd think. For one, compared to the other characters on "Euphoria," Lexi often fades to the background in the show, observing the drama of her peers rather than partaking in it. Since she stays out of the way, it'd make sense for her to have extra free time outside of her studies to work on her play. But also, Lexi's knack for recalling some of her most vivid memories almost word for word proves that she has incredible instincts and pays close attention to details. So her talent is not at all unusual for gifted students who have the ability to pull off huge productions like this.

"Adolescents and students are capable of so much more than the actual institutions give them credit for."

"The real answer is there aren't many students who are capable of that, by both dedication and ability," Cheeseman explains. "[At my school], we did some student-written productions, so it's not uncommon for high schools to do that. But we did them always in sort of small one-act things." It certainly seems like Lexi's play lasts much longer than your average high school production, so that aspect still raises a few eyebrows. However, in the grand scheme of things, her play falls in line with "Euphoria"'s imaginative plot. Lexi's talents shouldn't be underestimated or underscored, no matter how far-fetched her production appears to be. "Adolescents and students are capable of so much more than the actual institutions give them credit for," Cheeseman concludes. "We simply shouldn't ignore the fact that students are able to do that and are capable of it."