Four theatre productions showcase the talents of all-student production teams and casts

This semester, theatre enthusiasts can anticipate student-run productions put on by the Pasquerilla East Musical Company (PEMCo); Film, Television, and Theatre’s ND Theatre NOW; the Student Players; and the Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Company.

PEMCo unites student producers, directors, designers, publicists, choreographers, actors, singers, dancers, accompanists, and instrumentalists to produce two musicals and a musical revue every year.  PEMCo productions have often been large-scale and high quality, thanks to the talent and effort exhibited by each show’s student production team.

Since the Film, Television, and Theatre (FTT) department began producing its own musical every other fall semester in 2013, PEMCo has collaborated with the department, and many of the student participants of PEMCo also participate in the FTT musical.

PEMCo hit the ground running the first week of classes with this semester’s musical, Ordinary Days, by Adam Gwon.  The all-student production team took on the challenge of a three-week rehearsal period in order to work around the rehearsal and performance schedule for FTT’s Little Shop of Horrors, which opens in November.

The Rover spoke to senior FTT and American Studies major Lesley Stevenson, one of the four producers working on Ordinary Days, about the joys and challenges of a student-run production.

“Being a student-run company is the best and worst thing about PEMCo,” Stevenson said.  “It’s absolutely the best because you know that people are doing it not because they’re being paid, or they have to do it for class, or their moms are making them—they’re doing it because they love it.”

She continued, “It’s the worst, though, because students always have schedule limitations; even us producers can’t make perfect commitments.  It’s beautiful, really, to see the passion and dedication people give to the company when they’re under no obligation to give anything at all.”

Senior FTT major Jacob Schrimpf, one of the four actors in Ordinary Days, expressed to the Rover what he hopes will resonate with Notre Dame students:

“The overarching question in the show is, ‘What is your life story, what’s your big picture and how are you going to get it?’  I think that’s something that college students always have on our minds: what are our dreams and what can we do to make them happen.”

Ordinary Days runs from September 10-12 in the Washington Hall Lab Theatre.

Soon after the PEMCo production, another all-student cast and production team will present this year’s ND Theatre NOW production, Wildflower, a play by Lila Rose Kaplan.

Although FTT provides the resources, it is the students who run the show.  Student director Anthony Murphy, a senior FTT major, found Wildflower with the help of Professor Anne García-Romero and selected it to be this year’s production.

The all-student design team, charged with the task of creating the world of the play onstage, includes senior lighting designer Michael Burns, senior costume designer Austin Hunt, freshman set designer Brynn Alexander, and junior stage manager Amanda Bartolini.

The Rover had the opportunity to attend the welcome gathering for Wildflower to get a sneak peek at Murphy’s plans and those of the all-student design team.  Although several of the designers are new to their roles, each student artist confidently presented a unique and thoughtful artistic vision for lights, set, or costumes.

Mary Patano, a junior FTT and marketing major, offered her perspective on working under a student director.  “Working under a student, they’re often more approachable than a professional director, which I think makes the play stronger because you’re not afraid to ask important questions about your character and about the process,” she told the Rover.

Patano has also stepped into the directorial role for the Student Players production, Naked Mole Rats In The World Of Darkness, a comedy by Mike Folie.  The Student Players welcomes actors and creative talent, whether or not they have experience in theatre.

Patano had not planned on being involved in theatre when she came to Notre Dame, but changed her mind after getting a callback for a show her freshman year.  She shared her hope that even students with no theatre experience will be encouraged to get involved.

“Clearly I’m a theatre geek,” she said, “but I think that everyone should do at least one show in their life.”

The Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Company, Notre Dame’s only student-run Shakespeare company, also welcomes non-FTT majors and actors of all levels to participate.  The spirited company has produced lively adaptations of the Bard’s plays since its rebirth in 1997, including last semester’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Auditions for the next Not-So-Royal production, Pericles, will be held September 11 and 12 in the Debartolo Performing Arts Center rehearsal room.

Victoria Velasquez is a junior English and FTT major.  When the weather is this hot and humid she likes to pretend that she’s a jungle explorer.  All she’s missing is a machete.  Contact her at