Woodshed’s production, Hot Mess, explores youth culture

Actors of the new play Hot Mess rehearse a scene for the upcoming show. The play will be performed in the Shiva Theater starting November 2. Photo by: Cassady Bergevin
Actors of the new play Hot Mess rehearse a scene for the upcoming show. The play will be performed in the Shiva Theater starting November 2. Photo by: Cassady Bergevin
Actors of the new play Hot Mess rehearse a scene for the upcoming show. The play will be performed in the Shiva Theater starting November 2. Photo by: Cassady Bergevin

“Hot mess” has become a buzz-phrase used on college campuses all over the country, epitomizing the youth party culture of our present day in age. To explore this subject not often covered in theater, Woodshed Theater Ensemble, one of Vassar College’s student-run theatrical organizations, is putting up the lyrical story of award-winning British playwright and theatrical director Ella Hickson’s 2010 play, Hot Mess.

The ensemble will be producing three performances of the play this coming Friday, October 25 at 10:30 p.m. and Saturday, October 26 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m..

The productions will run for approximately eighty to ninety minutes and they will be performed in the Susan Stein Shiva Theater. Tickets can be reserved at the Information Desk in the College Center of Main Building and are free of charge.

Hot Mess is set on the United Kingdom’s Hayling Island and features the reunion of the warmhearted Twitch (played by Olivia McGiff ’14) with her colder twin, Polo (Logan Woodruff ’14), on their 25th birthday after a year of separation. The siblings are joined by Twitch’s American lover, Billy (Devin McDuffee ’14), and Polo’s best friend, the love ‘em and leave ‘em Jacks (Sammi Katz ’14); from there, the play follows the foursome on one very hot mess of a night.

Hot Mess focuses on the friendship and loss that comes with the romantic and sexual endeavors of lovers in their twenties.

“We were drawn to it because it speaks to our present party/youth social culture,” wrote Katz in an emailed statement. “It’s a facet of our lives, especially here at Vassar, which we don’t usually portray in our art. It forces us to evaluate our own habits and perceptions of love, hooking-up and social interactions. It’s a play written for our generation.”

The Woodshed members as a cohesive group began the process of electing a show early on in the semester. “We began the process the first week of school by reading plays and deciding what kind of show we were interested in doing this semester,” wrote McGiff in an emailed statement.

Hot Mess was selected by Woodshed as a whole, guided by Woodruff. Its members, who met approximately four times a week for two to three hour rehearsal periods in preparation for the performances, were attracted to the vibrancy of the text and the subject matter the play explores.

“We just picked it because…we all thought we could play fun characters and have fun lights,” wrote Woodshed member James Kelly ’16 in an emailed statement.

With imaginative characters who are intriguing to interpret, the play is very much an interactive experience for its actors and production crew. “Hot Mess is not just a play; it is an immersive theatrical experience that blurs the line of reality and meta-theatricality,” wrote Woodruff.

Members of Woodshed found the play both stimulating and challenging to work with. “The first time we all read [the script of the play], we didn’t really know what was happening.” Nevertheless, the complexity of the script provided the opportunity for the group to explore the intricate relations between its characters. “The fluidity between reality, memory scape and dream was challenging but also makes Hot Mess that much better of a play,” wrote Woodshed member Nora Kaye ’16 in an emailed statement.

Recalling her own experience with the production, Katz wrote in an emailed statement, “The four of us actors have been working with each other for numerous Woodshed productions so there is a level of trust and comfort. I felt free to make really big choices and I wasn’t afraid to make a really big fool of myself while exploring my crazy character.”

Woodshed was founded in 2001 as a student-run collaborative theater ensemble that focuses on encouraging its individual members to use their personal attitudes toward, and experiences with, theater to create dynamic combinations of thought that result in memorable full-length productions. The ensemble’s work varies greatly with each semester, as its members tend to pursue their own preexisting theatrical interests as well as forms of theatrical expression and theatrical roles they may not be as familiar with.

Woodshed is a non-hierarchical organization that currently has six members, but the number of individuals involved in the group fluctuates, changing the desires of the group as it strives to work with the experiences and needs of its members.

Members experiment with various roles as dramaturges, actors, designers, directors and the like. As such, the ensemble has produced various forms of theater, ranging from Shakespearean comedies to contemporary dramas, over the years.

“Woodshed is a great opportunity to try all aspects of theater and collaborating to create really innovative and exciting works of theater,” wrote its members in a collective emailed statement.

Students interested in joining the ensemble should be aware that tryouts are held at the beginning of each spring semester and that students of all levels of theatrical experience are more than welcome to audition.

An innovative and dynamic group, Woodshed provides Vassar students an opportunity to explore their interests in theater. When asked for the advice it could give to aspiring directors and actors, the ensemble wrote in a collective emailed statement: “Try it all! There are so many exciting aspects of theater to explore. See as much theater as possible! Read plays that you don’t know because without being open-minded we never would have found this show.”

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