Most students devote attention and time to a class assignment only until a project’s due date. But Hannah Tobias ’16 and Belle Shea ’16 continued to develop their Drama 102 final project far beyond the scope of the course. After the 2013 spring semester ended, the girls continued working on their assignment over the summer. Their project eventually evolved into what is now the musical “2023.” The show, a Future Waitstaff of America (FWA) produced musical, is about what it takes to live on Mars. After being in the works for almost a year, “2023” will premiere this weekend.
The original assignment called for Tobias and Shea to create a 15-minute theatrical production, which could be about anything the students wanted. “We were just tossing around ideas at our first meeting and one of our other group members, Jake Namaroff [’16], casually asked, ‘Have you guys heard of Mars-One?’ and we said, ‘Um no…?’ He explained, Google gave us more info, and then we just ran with it,” said Tobias in an emailed statement.
Tobias and Shea’s miniature theater piece ended up being much more than their course’s final examination. The two creators of “2023” enjoyed their work for class so much that they decided to expand upon their creation. Tobias explained in an emailed statement, “Over the summer we took the basic premise of the original project and really all we did was flesh out our original work. Now ‘2023’ is nearly an hour and a half, with seven songs, the same five characters and a heck of a lot more dialogue.”
The plot of the show follows the final four people who have made it through the application process to go to space and to spend the rest of their lives on Mars. But as Tobias and Shea continued their work on “2023,” the show’s plot expanded to touch upon themes deeper than the possibility of living in space.
Shea described, “I’d have to say it’s an exploration—of the idea of exploration, of what it means to explore, balanced with what is getting left behind.”
“2023” is not the only original work of student-created theater. The show is one of three original musicals that will be preformed this semester; apart from “2023”, the list includes “Hub Crawl,” which was performed last weekend, and “Sludge Jump,” which will go up in April by FWA.
For the co-creators of “2023,” the writing process has been a rewarding, smooth and even enjoyable endeavor. Tobias said in an emailed statement, “Belle is the perfect writing partner; writing with her is consistently rewarding and incredibly balanced. We think this partnership is going to continue and I’m so excited for our next project, which will hopefully be on Vassar’s theater radar sometime in the coming years.”
Although the show’s subject matter errs on the serious side—with characters leaving their family, friends, life and planet for another—“2023” was written as a comedy. “Some of the lines in the show are so funny. There is one character who is very eccentric and very nerdy so basically he has all of these ridiculous lines so at our cast parties we have him say them over and over and over again so that the rest of cast doesn’t laugh onstage—they have to stay in character,” Emily Omrod, ’16, the show’s stage manager, production manager, and self-proclaimed ‘spirit manager’ said.
Omrod continued, “The show is such a combination between funny and smart. The show is about the interview process of people being chosen to go to Mars and live there, and it is an actual thing. A Vassar student is actually in the final interview process. They’ve really hit the nail on how to be funny and how to be serious at the same time.”
After reading the script Tobias and Shea spent time developing over the summer, Omrod claims to have immediately fallen in love with “2023”. She said, “When they went up for FWA I was just like, ‘I would love the opportunity, obviously pick whomever you want but if you need a stage manager, I’m here! If you need a production manager, I will learn how to run a light-board. Hannah and Belle texted me: You’re in. I was so excited.”
The same script the show’s stage manager fell in love with had similar effects upon cast members. “My favorite part of 2023 is me—who else? Obviously by that I mean my character. Dare, short for Derek, is so deliciously weird I barely even need to put any effort in to get people laughing. Often Hannah will say to me outside of rehearsal, ‘Be careful, you’re turning into Dare.’ The thing is that Dare is as much a rebel and a rock-star as he is a weird little dork, so this has ceased to deter me from staying in character long after rehearsal ends,” said Josh Bruce ’16, a cast-member of “2023.”
He continued, “I think the other cast members would agree that at least a little bit of each of our characters has either seeped into who we are or was already there.”
Cast and crew members alike fell in love with the music Tobias and Shea wrote for “2023” as well as the storyline. “The music is so perfect. Every song serves a definite purpose; there’s never a moment where I feel like I’m singing simply because I’m in a musical. I am consistently blown away by the talent of my fellow performers, because the music is very intricate and was not easy to learn,” said Bruce. “The payoff though…the chords and riffs still give me shivers.”
“2023” will be performed Friday, Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 22 at 2 and 8 p.m. in the Shiva Theater.