An energized group of newly minted, theatrically inclined AU students demonstrated considerable talents in acting, singing, dancing and general showmanship in the New Student Showcase on Sept. 21 and 22 in the Greenberg Theatre.
This program is an annual tradition designed to assimilate freshmen, transfer students and newly declared theatre majors into the school’s Department of Performing Arts, providing an opportunity to interact with upperclassmen and faculty who share a similar passion for the stage.
“Anyone can do this,” said Joel Iscaro, a cast member and freshman student in the School of Communication. “You don’t have to have any experience. It was a really cool way to see if maybe I want to do theater as a major or minor.”
All students who auditioned were accepted to participate in the program, according to Iscaro. Each year, the script credited to AU performing arts Professors Caleen Sinnette Jennings and Javier Rivera is trimmed, expanded and modified to accommodate the differing cast sizes and personality types. The music by Robert Rokicki and Michael Ruby undergoes a similar process.
The year’s show began with a hearty laugh of recognition from the audience as a familiar phrase fills the air: “Mass Avenue walk sign is on to cross.” The new students entered, introducing themselves by their actual names to emphasize the “showcase” aspect of the performance.
In the first of two acts, the actors portray new students in a Performance 101 class, advised by Performing Arts Assistant Professor Karl Kippola narrating from beyond the audience’s view. As the students prepare for their first audition and endure the pressures of their first semester, their songs and monologues reflect the show’s themes of adjusting to a new environment, balancing personal aspirations with practical responsibilities and valuing creative fulfillment over petty competitiveness.
In one memorable scene, a girl (played by freshman Sarah Snead) thinks about dead puppies and “any episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’” in order to generate tears. Later a chaotic crowd scene features the students arguing with their parents on the phone, climaxing in a chorus of “I love you!” that drew cheers from the audience.
Act Two consisted of the students’ performance of the play-within-the-play, “Outta Here,” in which a group of college students attend a reunion and reminisce about the glory days and days that were not so glorious. An opening number, “I Wanna Go Back,” is a nostalgic throwback to simpler childhood days, and the show climaxed with the triumphant refrain, “You can do anything,” an empowering message as the actual performers begin their second month of college.
When asked about the most fulfilling aspect of his first foray into college drama, Iscaro praised the stage crew, largely comprised of juniors and seniors and the show’s director Cara Gabriel, an assistant professor in AU’s Department of Performing Arts.
“We get to work directly with some of the faculty members,” Iscaro said. “It’s great to meet people who have had lots of experience.”
As the semester continues, many of these students will likely be seen as actors and crew members in upcoming drama productions. The New Student Showcase served as their first brush with the college theater experience, with many more delightful encounters still to come.